California lawmakers are sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that severely restricts the use of dogs in hunting bears and bobcats.
Senate Bill 1221 by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, crossed its last legislative hurdle this afternoon, when the state Senate approved it on a 22-13 concurrence vote. The bill had become a flash point in California's culture wars -- with hundreds of hunters filling the Capitol for every vote -- and the Senate's debate was no different. Houndsmen in orange t-shirts watched today's debate from the balcony above the Senate floor.
Republicans did most of the talking during the 40-minute discussion. They cast the bill as a case of elite city-dwellers impinging on the rights of rural Californians.
"What is it about hunting that urban folks don't seem to like?" said Sen. Doug La Malfa, R-Richvale.
"I'm not even a hound hunter, but so many of my neighbors participate in this type of activity.... We see this as a threat to very basic, very core, foundational rural life."
Lieu said that senators represent more than their individual districts. They also represent the whole state, he said, adding that a survey showed the majority of Californians favor banning dogs from participating in bear and bobcat hunting.
"This is really not a rural or urban issue. It is a California issue," Lieu said. "It is a humane issue."
The bill originally would have banned the use of dogs in hunting bears and bobcats. Amendments the Senate approved today allow for three circumstances when it would be OK for hounds to pursue the animals: in conducting wildlife research, when a permit has been issued to kill an animal causing a nuisance, and if an animal unintentionally comes onto private property where the owner has a dog.
The Assembly approved the amendments last week, prompting a kerfuffle when Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, argued for the bill by describing a hunter who "opens a cold one" while his dogs chase a bear or bobcat to exhaustion.