Senator Bob Smith, Trenton’s Trigger-Happy Democrat

“Whenever the Democrats compromise, it seems to involve appeasing hunters, in this case at the expense of homeowners.”

-Sue Russell, Wildlife Policy Expert

The Animal Protection League is an organization dedicated to the well-being of companion animals, wildlife and farmed animals in New Jersey. We’re also committed to preserving New Jersey’s landscape to accommodate an abundance of species here in our state. Above all, we’re non-partisan and have a history of working with Democrats, Republicans and third party candidates. But you guys at BlueJersey are partisan and you do a great jobs keeping politicians on their toes, particularly when they wander off the ideological reservation and abandon party principle.

NRA’s TOKEN TRENTON HANDMAIDEN

Democratic Senator Bob Smith (Middlesex Co.) has a voting record on issues such as gay rights and reproductive choice that largely squares with public opinion and his party’s platform. It seems to work for him and his district, where voters have returned him to Trenton by comfortable margins. A cursory glance at Smith’s voting record on environmental and wildlife management doesn’t suggest anything sinister. As per Sen. Smith’s Wikidepia Page:

“Smith sponsored and passed laws dealing with such critical matters as increasing penalties for violations of environmental laws, repairing outmoded combined sewer systems, and reforming the state’s oil spill prevention efforts. Senator Smith’s legislative accomplishments include authoring the Ocean Pollution Bounty Act, Sludge Management Act, Oil Spill Prevention Act, the Worker and Community Right to Know Act and the Clean Water Enforcement Act.”

Just the sort of thing you’d want to see the chairman of the NJ Senate Environmental Committee to boast about, right?

But a closer look at Senator Smith — particularly with regards to wildlife management — reveals a curious relationship with the Hunting and Gun Lobby as well as the recently infamous American Legislative Affairs Council (ALEC), a right-wing organization “composed of conservative legislators, businesses and foundations which produces model legislation for state legislatures and promotes free-market and conservative ideas.”

Let’s go beneath the fold for the gory details.

First of all, Senator/Chairman Smith is a card-carrying member of the New Jersey Angling and Hunting Conservation Caucus, organized by an NRA-sponsored Political Action Committee (PAC) called the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance. If you really wanna know what makes these guys tick, check out this press release announcing Senator Donald Norcross as the caucus’ co-chairman. Did you notice the banner across advertising assault rifles for sale? How about the sidebar ad with ominous warnings about how President Obama wants to take your guns?

NINE TRIGGER-HAPPY DEMS

Senator/Chairman Smith is not he only Democrat in the Hunter Caucus (there are eight others; for full roster, click here, then scroll down) but as Chairman of the Environmental Committee, he is uniquely situated to shepherd forward legislation that’s widely-promoted by extremely conservative out-of state commercial and political interests.

And unfortunately for BlueJersey readers, he’s currently working overtime to do just that.

Perhaps the most egregious example of Senator/Chairman Smith prioritizing the bidding of ALEC and the NRA was the 2010 passage of the NJ Bow Perimeter Bill which reduced the safety buffer zone and lowers the allowable radius for bow hunting around an occupied building to 150 feet (down from 450 feet.)

From a Star Ledger editorial:

“P-f-f-t. Thwang! Know what that is? It’s the sound of a razor-sharp, made-to-kill arrow as it zips across your lawn, maybe past your kid’s head as he plays with the dog, and sticks into your back door. Something to think about if you live next to legal hunting grounds in New Jersey, because the Legislature has approved a bill that shrinks the buffer between bowhunters and homes from 450 feet to 150 feet.”

Senator Dick Codey was quoted at the time, “the idea that somebody could be 150 feet from a house, shooting an arrow into a deer, is pretty disturbing to people in my district.” And we couldn’t agree more. This bill should have been bottled in committee and never seen the light of day. Instead, this poorly-conceived, right-wing, anti-environmental bill (which is now public policy) was rammed through the Environmental Committee by a left-of-center Democratic chairman. Thank you very much, Bob Smith.

“It’s clear that outside of websites which advertise AK47s, there is virtually no demand for these ill-conceived bill”

But such gun-loving tomfoolery didn’t end in 2010 for Senator/Chairman Smith.

Right now for example there’s a grim package of companion bills – 1) commercial logging of state forests (S1085), 2) a Bait-&-Poach bill (S1848) and 3) the Prescriptive Burn bill (S368) which passed through Senator Smith’s committee at an alarmingly brisk rate, and with surprisingly little push back.

The Cut-Kill-Burn trio of bills is a product of national timber, gun/game commercial associations alongside the right-wing NJ Outdoor Alliance PAC and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife. These bills not only ignore broad scientific consensus regarding wildlife and land management, but they don’t deliver much of an upside to the vast, overwhelming majority of New Jersey Residents (and most certainly not what’s best for New Jersey wildlife.)

Sounds like something Sarah Palin would love

S1848 BAITING &POACHING. S1848 will extend unethical, unsporting and unsafe poaching practices on forest stewardship lands in New Jersey. Consider these poaching techniques: jacklighting prey to stun them before firing weapon, shooting directly over bait, and firing weapon from a moving vehicle such as a snowmobile, ATV or pickup truck. All would be permitted under this bill, whose primary sponsor is Senator/Chairman Bob Smith.

This bill would allow killing at any time, day or night with any weapon. And for what it’s worth, the cruel poaching technique of jacklighting is illegal next door in gun-friendly Pennsylvania where a first time offender faces 90 days in jail.

S1085 COMMERCIAL LOGGING OF NJ STATE FORESTS

ALEC wrote this bill. Chapter and verse. Verbatim. Hook line and sinker. Luckily it’s not yet law.

An enviro Watchdog at Wolfenotes.com asks:

“What do so called pro-environment Senate Environmental Chair Bob Smith, South Jersey political boss Senator Norcross and right wing Warren County Republican ALEC Chairman Senator Oroho have in common?”

Answer: sponsorship of a “forest stewardship bill” which is — in the words of over 40 actual scientists who testified — “based on outdated, unscientific folklore.” Ouch.

Among the rationales to justify logging is fire prevention. But truth is, logging reduces forest canopy cover, causing more sunlight to reach the forest floor, which results in explosive growth of flammable brush and creates hotter, drier, conditions. Oh yeah, and it also “jeopardizes clean air and public health.”

This bill already cleared relevant committees and now faces a full Senate Vote. So there’s still time to stop it and we hope you’ll call your Senator and tell them to vote no on S1085. Unless of course, you want right-wing, Koch Brothers-sponsired policy passing the Senate chambers.

And if you’re still unconvinced, read what a lousy deal this bill is for taxpayers here here, and here.

SO NOW WHAT?

Not kosher with your Senate Enviro Chair prioritizing the bidding of out-of-state Koch Bros.-funded lobbyists at the ALEC and the NRA? Then call Senator Smith and tell him so, especially if you live in his district! Next, call Senate President Steve Sweeney and urge him to give the Enviro gavel to someone on that committee who’s not a hand-maiden to the hunting lobby. While you’re got Senator Sweeney on the line, urge him to drop his membership in the NRA-sponsored NJ Hunter Caucus. Third, call your Senator (whoever he or she is) and tell them to vote NO on the Commercial Logging (S1085), Poaching (S1848) and Prescribed Burn (S368) bills.

Finally, since we share many of your policy values at the Animal Protection League, you might want to check us out — and like us on Facebook, as well. NRA

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