COLUMBIA - A prolonged fight over a hunting bill has put two local lawmakers at odds, but they hope to settle their argument in conference committee.
Property owners and game hunters who thought politicians would ban hunting from paved roads before they adjourned must wait a little longer. Now, there will be no ban before deer season opens in August.
But lawmakers did try.
Rep. Robert "Skipper" Perry, R-Aiken, tried Wednesday to do what his House colleague, Wagener Republican Charles Sharpe, originally promised last year: to ban roadside hunting altogether. Other representatives agreed, but senators wouldn't budge. They liked Mr. Sharpe's revised bill better.
After months of political posturing, Mr. Sharpe reneged on his original proposal to ban the practice and instead wanted to limit it to a small program that leaves out 43 counties. When Mr. Sharpe changed his bill, he said Aiken County was not included "because I haven't heard as many complaints as I did two years ago."
Because the House and Senate did not agree, a conference committee will try to work out the differences over the summer, hoping to have a bill ready when the Legislature returns. Mr. Perry and Mr. Sharpe, who openly disagreed over the bill in the House, are not part of the group.
"Hunting from the road isn't hunting," Mr. Perry said. "You hunt in the woods. And sitting in your pickup truck liquored up and waiting for a pack of dogs to flush deer is no way to teach children to hunt, either."
Mr. Perry said he knew things might get rough when he learned Tuesday evening that Mr. Sharpe's bill to ban roadside hunting in Kershaw, Marlboro and Chesterfield counties had been quietly tagged to the end of a Senate bill that had nothing to do with the practice. The strategy is often used by lawmakers to blind-side opponents or move legislation that has gotten stalled.
Most members of the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee, including Mr. Perry, had thought Mr. Sharpe's bill was dead. It wasn't clear Thursday whether Mr. Sharpe knew it was not.
But Mr. Perry said he learned from a "concerned citizen" who had followed the measure closely that someone had persuaded a senator to slide it through. The Senate passed the Sharpe bill and sent it to the House, which debated it Wednesday for more than an hour without immediate action.
Mr. Sharpe said Thursday that he didn't have anything in particular to say about the latest turn of events, except that "I knew there would be a hang-up, and I'm not sure we'll ever reach a consensus on anything.
"Some people want a little bit; some people want a lot, and some people want everything in between," he said.