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Bill to allow limited Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania gains committee approval

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A bill 337 years in the making is working its way through the Pennsylvania Legislature after receiving committee approval.

After a lengthy discussion, the House Game and Fisheries Committee recommended by a vote of 21-4 approval of an amended Senate Bill 147, which would allow hunting on three Sundays. The Senate approved the bill in June.

Senate Bill 147 would allow hunting on three Sundays of the year – one during deer rifle season, one during deer archery season and another that would be decided by the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission.

Pennsylvania is one of only three states to ban Sunday hunting and has since the commonwealth has been in existence – about 337 years, lawmakers said. The General Assembly approved fishing on Sunday back in 1939, said Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny.

“We are on the cusp of a historic vote,” Kortz said.

An amendment proposed by Kortz that would require hunters to obtain written permission from landowners to hunt on Sundays or possibly face a trespassing charge was added to the Senate bill. Anyone caught trespassing for the first time would face a fine. Hunters could have their hunting licenses revoked or possibly face jail time for second offenses.

The committee held a lengthy debate on a proposed amendment by Rep. David Maloney, R-Berks, that would not have required game wardens to enforce the trespassing law but allowed state and local police officers to make arrests.

Kortz asked Maloney how game wardens would handle hunters caught trespassing.

“Does he say, ‘Wait right here so I can call forward and get someone else to come and arrest you?’” Kortz asked.

“He [the game warden] can enforce it, but he is not required to,” Maloney responded.

The National Rifle Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Farm Bureau opposed the amendment.

“We look at it as another amendment to hold this bill down, which has great potential to pass at this point,” said Dave Weber, state director for the NRA.

Maloney withdrew his amendment.

Before the vote, Rep. Ed-Neilson, D-Philadelphia, expressed his support for the bill after receiving an apology letter from a lobbyist who criticized lawmakers during a hearing held in September. Nielsen had said he would have a difficult time voting “yes” after Harold Daub, executive director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists., accused the lawmakers of being bullied by The Farm Bureau into not supporting the bill during that meeting.