As we began to spread the word about Fissues.org, one theme was repeated at every trade show seminar and fishing club we visited. The election is over, and most people simply want to return to living their lives without the drama of 24/7 politics. Less rhetoric and more substance were key themes when the idea for Fissues.org was born back in 2011. Fissues.org is an attempt by a small team of conservation-minded recreational fishing advocates to simplify the very complicated system of fisheries management, so that maybe, when important actions are proposed, more conservation-minded citizens will choose to participate in democracy and have their voices heard.
Although most fishery management actions that matter to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions happen at the New England Fishery Management Council, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, when fisheries management actions happen at the federal level, they tend to have long-lasting effects on the lives of anglers. Thus, to be a one-stop source for news about fisheries management, Fissues.org needs a section dedicated to federal fisheries. This two-part article is both a civics lesson and a report on the current players in “fishy” DC. This is our attempt to explain how actions by the federal government end up in your individual tackle box…
Everything related to fisheries management within in the United States is authorized by legislation passed by the US Congress. Congress is made up of two elected government bodies: the US Senate and the US House of Representatives. Both chambers have traditional roles and personalities that are generally well known.
Both the House and Senate have individual committees that deal with “appropriations” or money, but spending the nation’s money is even more complicated than writing the nation’s law.
The federal budget process begins with the President’s budget. This budget is due to Congress by the first Monday of February, with a few exceptions, including a President in their first year in office, like President Trump. But the President’s budget submitted to Congress is effectively only a statement of Presidential policy priorities. The true spending authority lies with Congress and lawmakers are under no obligation to follow the President’s budget. Thus, Congress develops its own budget through the two Budget Committees. These budget bills provide top-line spending limits for each federal agency and must be passed by Congress. Once the budget bill is approved, then the House and Senate Appropriations Committees determine the specific line item spending levels for each agency through the normal appropriations process.
On rare occasion fisheries discussions come up under appropriations. When relevant and important, Fissues.org will cover appropriations.
Back to making laws: When legislation gets out of a subcommittee and is passed by the full committee, it tends to sit until leadership decides that it’s time to move the legislation. Lots of things affect the “floor schedule.” Legislation must first pass either the House or the Senate. When both have passed similar legislation, both versions are referred to a “conference committee.” When and if an agreement can be made on negotiated language, the legislation is sent back to both bodies for final passage. When this happens, it is sent to the President for signature. It is only when the President signs a bill that it becomes law.
Many fisheries related “bills” or potential acts of legislation are filed in either body each year. Many of these are given hearings before the subcommittees. Fissues.org will not report on legislation until there is a hearing or we feel the legislation is more than just a filed idea on paper. We value our time and that means we won’t waste your time reporting on legislation without momentum. Fissues.org is monitoring several existing acts of legislation, so keep an eye on the web site and our social media pages for current information.
From DC to Tackle Box Part 1 (Congress & Legislation)