Sen. Ernie Chambers (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
A proposed ban on hunting mountain lions in Nebraska got sidetracked in the Legislature Thursday.
It was supposed to be the last round of voting on Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers' proposed ban. Lawmakers authorized the Game and Parks Commission to allow such hunting two years ago, during Chambers’ term-limits-enforced temporary absence from the Legislature.
Now that Chambers has returned, he has vowed to abolish the hunt or block additional money for Game and Parks.
His proposed ban has advanced through two rounds of voting with strong support, but Thursday, Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh led an attempt to block it. Lautenbaugh said this year’s first hunting season went well. "Based upon nothing having gone awry and no evidence of overhunting or the hunt having gone poorly this year – it seems to have gone exactly as designed, and exactly as we authorized just a couple of years ago – we are now attempting to change course and undo what we just did. And I don’t see the point in that," he declared.
Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis said mountain lions are magnificent animals but need to be controlled like any predator. Sen. Dave Bloomfield said that doesn’t require hunting. "It’s a good way to control but it’s not the only way to control" the population, he said. "If the population expands well beyond what it should be, Game and Parks can control that population.
Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy said Nebraska shouldn’t give in to national groups that oppose hunting. "I think we’re…blessed with a wealth of hunting and fishing habitat that we have in our state, and the rich tradition that hunting and fishing holds for Nebraskans just like it does for those in surrounding stats and all over our country," McCoy said. "So many times we have said no to those who would threaten that way of life," McCoy said.
That prompted Sen. Tanya Cook of Omaha to object to what she called an inaccurate portrayal of how most people in the state live. "You’re perpetuating an image of this state which is not true for most of the current residents of the state of Nebraska," Cook said. "Maybe it’s some sort of fantastical fantasy that you have: you’ll carry a gun and wear chaps and go out like that movie ‘City Slickers’. Maybe that’s where its coming from.
Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill read a letter from a former constituent questioning why senators have advanced Chambers proposed hunting ban up to this point. "Isn’t it still the voice of the majority that still passes bills, not just the vote of one? I would appreciate an honest answer, not just a politically correct one, on how Sen. Chambers is being allowed to bully the Legislature," Larson read.
For his part, Chambers accused Lautenbaugh of a legislative ploy: trying to set a precedent that would force legislative speaker Greg Adams to give Lautenbaugh more time next week to try and pass an bill expanding gambling. "I would rather lose this bill than let that happen. I respect the Speaker, I respect the Legislature as an institution, I respect our processes. But I don’t respect the people who do what’s being done this morning," Chambers said.
Lautenbaugh denied Chamber’s accusation.
Adams pulled the mountain lion hunting ban off the agenda, while saying it would be debated again later.