Below is an article that was published by the North Augusta Star Newspaper. It was on the front page of the printed version that hit the streets this week. You can see the original article at northaugustastar.com
Haley to visit N.A. to sign first bill by Hixon
In his capacity on the S.C. House natural resources committee, North Augusta's Rep. Bill Hixon saw a need and an easy fix. Now, Gov. Nikki Haley is scheduled to come to North Augusta next Tuesday at 3 p.m. to formally sign Hixon's first successful bill into law.
Hixon explained that South Carolina was one of only a few states that are not part of an Interstate Wildlife Compact – a reciprocal agreement among states that makes life easier for fishermen and hunters if they find themselves in violation of a law somewhere other than their home state. But that's now about to change.
He said some friends of his from Augusta were canoeing in the Savannah River when they were stopped by an officer with S.C. Department of Natural Resources and cited for not having enough life jackets with them. By South Carolina law, out-of-state violators are required to post bond immediately, or they go to jail. If a hunter is a resident of the state, he can get a ticket, go home and pay it later – just like a moving violation.
"But if you're in another state, and, say, you have too many fish – or not enough life jackets – you have to pay right then," Hixon said, "or the officer has to take you to jail, and you have to be processed … fingerprinted … the works."
Hixon presented his solution to the problem for hunters and fishermen, and both the S.C. House and Senate agreed with him. As a result, Hixon is the first freshman member of the General Assembly this year to get a bill passed through by both houses and signed by the Governor.
He noted that most of the other states have signed the Interstate Wildlife Compact already. With that agreement in place, a hunter or fisherman can go to another state knowing that if he inadvertently violates a local law related to game, he will be treated like a resident of that state. And if the violator doesn't pay his fine at the appointed time or doesn't return for a hearing date, according to the Interstate Wildlife Compact his hunting and fishing privileges will be suspended in South Carolina until he's paid his fine where the violation occurred. (The same would be true for a Georgia fisherman cited in South Carolina, for example.)
"I'm going to Montana (this fall), and I only carry so much cash," he laughed. The new agreement will mean Hixon, along with other S.C. hunters, doesn't have to worry about going to jail because he can't post bond for a minor violation.
The bill to join the Interstate Wildlife Compact "breezed" through the S.C. House and Senate and was signed by the governor, according to Hixon, who has received praise for what he calls common sense. "I saw a need which was brought to our committee, I studied it and got it through," he said proudly. "It just made sense."
Hixon noted that the Compact will make life easier not just for the fisherman, but for game wardens everywhere, as well. He argued that when someone is cited the way his friends were, the game officers don't want to take the time to arrest someone and take them to jail and have to go through all that is involved in any arrest. (He was quick to point out the Compact doesn't have any effect on the treatment of more serious crimes, like BUI (boating under the influence).
He pointed out the Compact is particularly important in areas like the CSRA where the river is shared by two states, and boaters don't always know who has jurisdiction.
"The river means a lot to us," he said, and as a result, when Gov. Haley offered to come to North Augusta to sign the bill, Hixon immediately suggested doing it on the Savannah River. "I wanted a picture with my first bill, so we're going to do this at Boeckh Park (in Hammond's Ferry) on the Savannah," he said,
And Haley planned the trip so as not to interfere with the visit from Michele Bachmann, slated for 2 p.m. in Aiken next Tuesday. "We changed (the signing) to 3 p.m. so folks could get to both," said Hixon.