Legislative Watch

A state senator’s classless attack on poor people

It’s hard to keep track of all the absurd gibberish coming out of the General Assembly these days. This is especially true in the numerous committee meetings in which no reporter or microphone is likely to be present.

Occasionally, however, a lawmaker will say something so outrageous that an audience member will feel compelled to take notes and preserve an inane statement for posterity. Such an occurrence took place this week in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources.  

The subject was a small (that’s “small” in the derogatory sense of the word)  bill from Senators Jim Davis and Bill Rabon.  The measure would repeal a state law that allows poor people — many of whom lack the income to adequately feed themselves and their families — to obtain a waiver from the fee normally charged for a fishing license. The law in question is called the “Resident Subsistence Unified Inland/Coastal Recreational Fishing License Waiver.” That’s “subsistence” as in fishing to have some food to eat.

Apparently, however, it wasn’t enough for some conservative lawmakers to discuss such a hard-hearted and miserly bill in the Senate Ag committee earlier this week — they felt compelled to yuck it up while doing so.

According to an observer  who was present in the room to follow another matter, when Senator Ellie Kinnaird tried to ask about the bill and whether the current law was designed to help poor people find food to eat,  a discussion ensued in which Sen. Don East, co-chair of the committee (that’s him looking jovial above), laughingly asked whether it wasn’t true that “under current law these people can still use the food stamps to buy munchies to eat when they go fishing?” Though being cruel and decidedly unfunny, East’s remark prompted his co-chair Sen. David Rouzer to join in the “fun” by laughingly dismissing the “question” and telling Senator Davis he did not need to respond to all questions asked of him.

As more and more observers have noted while watching the developments on Jones Street of late, these people just don’t get it.