Yesterday afternoon the Louisiana House of Representatives debated and voted on House Bill 391 by Kevin Pearson of Slidell. HB391 would have allowed public access to tidal waters. It was expected to be a close vote, with some momentum after having passed 5-3 in committee. And with a large number of supporters in attendance for the vote, there was glimmer of hope the bill might actually pass.
But after much debate - and a couple amendments - the bill was voted down 59 to 37. With many of the "no" votes coming from north and central Louisiana, whose representatives were heavily lobbied over the weekend by large out-of-state land companies and oil companies. In fact, according to some accounts, as many as 50 lobbyists were brought in to work against HB391.
Many of the hundreds of anglers on Facebooks who supported the bill quickly posted their disgust with the politicians who clearly were trying to derail the bill, speaking the talking points given them by the lobbyists. Anglers were also quick to point out that this was just one battle - the war will go on!
As with every issue of this magnitude, there were winners and losers. The big oil companies won the vote, but anglers won their dignity. They will be more determined than ever to organize and fight on. The losers were CCA, who went back on their stance. Based on dozens of comments, I doubt there will be enough kayakers participating to hold this summer's Ride The Bull. Another big loser were the representatives who voted against HB391 in areas where anglers make up a significant portion of the electorate. As the support for public access continues to mount, this will become a campaign issue in next year's state elections.
For more complete details of the House vote on HB391, and a list of legislators who voted FOR and AGAINST the bill, go to this article by Louisiana Sportsman magazine.