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General Assembly

High-fenced hunts face uncertain fate

– A move to legalize five high-fenced hunting preserves in the state is hanging precariously.

The controversial language was added to Senate Bill 487 in the House. But Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, opposes the canned hunting provision.

The bill is in conference committee where four lawmakers attempt to negotiate a compromise for both chambers to vote on. But there have been no public meetings on the bill.

The five high-fenced hunting preserves provide deer with big racks in large confined spaces that hunters can shoot at high prices.

Lawmakers have now moved the original unrelated language from Senate Bill 487 to another House bill, which is set for final votes in both chambers.

That leaves Senate Bill 487 dangling, with the possibility it could die.

Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, the author of the original bill and chairman of the conference committee, could shed no light on the situation Tuesday morning.

“It’s still in conference committee,” he said. “I’m not going to give you any answers because I don’t know.”

Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston, is the main conferee in the House and said he wouldn’t be surprised if it dies, but he doesn’t know.

He said he and others had a meeting with Long, who expressed concern that the legislature would be settling a pending lawsuit.

The preserve owners sued the state in 2005 when the Indiana Natural Resources Commission passed rules banning the activity. They were signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels. The facilities have been operating under an injunction ever since.

Lehe said the legislature would prefer the court rule on the case. But testimony at other hearings has been that lawyers for the state and the hunting preserves have encouraged the court to wait until the legislature acts.

“That’s the dilemma,” he said, noting if the legislature does nothing, the situation would remain status quo.