Virginia hunters got some good news Thursday.
A Senate committee has voted to lift a ban on Sunday hunting in the Commonwealth.
The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
Governor McDonnell has said he will support Sunday hunting on private land.
Here is the news release:
Today, the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee passed SB 46 sponsored by Senator Ralph Northam (D-Accomack) to permit hunting on Sundays on private land in Virginia. A companion bill, SB 173, sponsored by Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City), which adopted the “private land” compromise for permitting Sunday hunting, was rolled into Senator Northam's bill in committee. The vote was 11-4 in favor of passing the compromise.
Proponents and opponents of Sunday hunting descended on the committee hearing, lending the hearing a sometimes emotional, and sometimes entertaining, atmosphere as the speakers described the benefits and disadvantages of Sunday hunting.
Strange bed-fellows emerged: representatives of the Virginia fox hunting community, animal activists, and bird watchers joined with the Farm Bureau in strongly opposed Sunday hunting. Outdoors groups and civil libertarians argued for it.
"We've designated hunting and fishing as a constitutional freedom in Virginia; how you can restrict hunting one day of the week?” Senator Petersen said following the committee hearing.
Senator Petersen had previously proposed SB 850 in 2011, which advocated an outright appeal of Sunday hunting. That bill died in Committee last year. His impetus for that bill had come from the Fairfax County Izaak Walton League which formally endorsed the repeal in 2009 - an endorsement eventually followed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
On Thursday, Sunday hunting gained traction. Senator Northam spoke: "It is time of the Commonwealth of Virginia to make a decision that the government should not be telling us, as property owners, what we can do on our property, and when we can do it."
Governor McDonnell has come out in favor of the repeal, and specifically endorsed Senator Peterson's version of the bill which emphasizes the rights of property owners to hunt on their own property. "I think certainly as a property rights issue we should not be telling property owners what they can and can't do on private property one day a week" Governor McDonnell said to the Roanoke Times on Thursday.
Pro Sunday hunting organizers agreed with the Governor and Senator Petersen; the NRA has come out in support of the bill, and 66% of licensed hunters in the Commonwealth of Virginia support Sunday hunting. The Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech cited the economic benefits of Sunday hunting, stating that Virginia would expect to gain 3,900 jobs, and an estimated 300 million dollars in potential economic benefit.
Senate committee votes to lift Sunday hunting ban
The bill goes to the full Senate for a vote
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