I wondered, as I prepared for this day, who was to be made “aware?” Us or them? Us being John Fuller and myself, representing the Federated Sportsman's Clubs of Chenango County, or the legislators and other dignitaries we were meeting.
John and I started our trip leaving Norwich at 6 a.m. A few Boston crème donuts, large coffee and a Mountain Dew at Dunkin Donuts sufficed along the way. Having previously lobbied with Safari Club International, NYS Forest Owners Association, and Farm Bureau, I was still adept at getting in and around Albany after a two-year hiatus.
We met up with former President of SCI, Dr. Larry Rudolph, along with the gang from the Adirondack-Catskill Chapter. Then met with Friends of Natural Gas who invited us to lunch. John and I perused the “Well” in the Legislative Center where other organizations were represented. SCOPE provided information on SANE gun legislation. N.Y. Crossbow Coalition had information on crossbows in N.Y., and the most recent news on crossbow legislation. Other groups represented were the NYS Outdoor Writers, N.Y.S. Rifle and Pistol Association, N.Y. Bowhunters, Inc. and quite a few other sportsman's organizations and clubs.
About 1,000 sportsmen filled the well to listen to Dr. Rudolph, Assemblyman Kolb, NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre, and other dignitaries talking about hunting, guns, sportsmen rights and how they all play together. The economics of hunting, fishing, trapping and gun sports put untold millions of dollars into the upstate communities by way of travel expenses, gear purchases, license fees and more. Quite possibly, these outdoor activities are the number one revenue source in New York State.
John and I were armed with paperwork for our legislators, addressing several of the concerns of those here in Chenango County. On our list of topics were supporting the crossbow in all seasons - for all ages, for all game. Senate Bill S6747A was what we were pushing. Also garnering support was a bill to increase the registration weight of ATV/UTV's to 1,500 pounds. from the current 1,000-pound maximum. This action is sponsored in the Senate as bill number S3318 Ritchie (Seward co-sponsor), and in the Assembly as A7743, Magee.
Our first visit was with Sen. Seward and his chief of staff, Duncan Davies. We presented our cases to a very receptive senator. Sen. Seward has always been 100 percent behind sportsmen, so the conversation went along easily. The senator responded, “the senate won't let it go through” when asked about his thoughts on microstamping.
Next up, we joined a large crowd of sportsmen in Assemblyman Peter Lopez's office. The Assemblyman has an unusual way of inviting sportsmen, with an open-door policy for a few hours on Sportsman's Awareness Day. Not being one to let the crowd upstage me, I got right next to the assemblyman's desk and spoke right up when he inquired about crossbows. I informed Mr. Lopez that S6747A was out there and we supported it. And that an accompanying assembly bill was in the works. He responded with his support of the bill. We had to make hay to Senator Libous' office, so we just left with a brief... “and don't support microstamping” comment, and headed back to the capitol.
My favorite stop has always been with Senator Libous. His entire staff welcomes us with open arms, especially deputy chief of staff, Jim Thomas. It’s been two years since I last lobbied the senator, but you'd think it was just yesterday that I was last in his office. Quizzing the senator on microstamping, he said, “we must stay vigilant.” Indeed, he's right. He, like Senator Seward is 100 percent for gun owners, and in my eye,s he's St. George the Dragon Slayer when it comes to microstamping legislation. The senator is behind us on the crossbow issue and was awaiting word on an assembly sponsor.
John spoke with the senator regarding a new van for the disabled American Veterans for transportation from the area to the VA hospital. The senator and Jim Thomas said they'd see what they could do regarding getting some help to purchase a new vehicle.
Back to the LOB to see Assemblyman Magee. Christina, his vhief of staff, met us with open arms (literally). It’s nice to be remembered! We discussed the microstamping with him, albeit it had already been added to the assembly budget bill that passed earlier the week before. But it’s always good to keep reminding our legislators that us sportsmen are 100 percent against it. Mr. Magee, being the assembly sponsor of the ATV/UTV bill, told us that it’s the preservationists in the Adirondacks that are opposed to this. We told him that if there needed to be a farmer’s exemption to this bill to get Farm Bureau behind its support, then we are willing to accept that. He said he'd continue working on it. As for the crossbow, he inquired as to what was going on with Cortland County (they are the only county that did not allow crossbows for the regular deer season in 2011). When we told him that the new bill will replace the law that sunsets in 2012, and include all game, all ages, all seasons. He listened to our request for support once the assembly bill came out.
Down the elevator to Assemblymen Crouch and Finch. The nice part is their offices are next to each other. Mr Crouch was out and so we spoke with his staffer, Ryan. We made him aware of our stances and explained the bills we supported. Having discussed legislation with Cliff many times, I knew he would be supportive of our requests. So we educated Ryan as to crossbows, their use, regulations, and the anti-crossbow critics and moved next door to Assemblyman Finch.
Mr. Finch was very interested in our crossbow discussion. He said he was not up on the issue and it would be good for us to explain things to him. He allowed us near 30 minutes of private discussion on the issue. I think John and I did a good job in passing along our views.
As we proceeded down the hallway, John noticed a sign on Assemblyman Castelli's door that said, “Minority Leader Veterans Affairs”. So, we thought this would be a good stop to discuss the DAV van situation. It was after 2 p.m. and his staffer took us right to the assembly floor to visit with Mr. Castelli. He was very, very receptive to John's request for some funding on the van issue. And when in talking, John and Mr. Castelli found common ground in that they were both in the same troop with the N.Y. State Police. John made a good impression in his requests for aid, and I do believe it was met with open and honest ears on the part of Mr. Castelli.
Our work done for the day, we headed back to Dunkin Donuts and the long ride home, with the knowledge that for $36 in gas and $14 in parking fees, we accomplished an incredible amount in good will and education. Now it’s your turn to contact our legislators and let them know how you feel.
• www.assembly.state.ny.us or 518-455-4100
• www.senate.state.ny.us or 518-455-2800
Note: As I pen this, the assembly has come out with a pro-crossbow bill that mimics S6747A. Assemblyman Sean Ryan, who hails from the Buffalo area, has sponsored A9682. Lets get behind this and get it passed this year before the old law sunsets in December...