Boy, did we get our butts whipped. We went into the hearing not knowing what to expect other than we felt like this would be an excellent test of our political system. On one side is the public and the excellent job everyone has done to communicate with elected officials throughout the state seeking their support for the bill. On the other side was Omega Proteins/Beaufort Fisheries and their team of lobbyist lead by ex Secretary of State Ruffius Edminston. Rep Stiller presented our case very effectively, I added a little more, and then Jerry Shields[lobbyist for commercial fishing] spoke followed by Jules Wheatley, owner of Beaufort Fisheries. The committee asked several questions of Wheatley regarding our putting him out of buisness. One member asked how many menhaden does he try to net out of a school. His response was "all of them". The committee voted and we were defeated 14 to 8.
My analysis is the deal was done before we ever walked into the hearing. The lobbyist had effectively done their jobs and we didn't stand a chance. So the answer to the question I raised at the start of this is answered. Our political system apparently is not about elected officials responding to their constituents but is about back room dealing with paid lobbyist, favors, relationships/ect. Sure we're disappointed but the defeat was so complete it is appraent following the Legislative path is obviously not the answer. Give us a couple of days to gather our thoughts and develop a strategy and we'll be back. We're bruised, beat up, bloody, but we're still standing, and we're not about to quit. This has been an extroadinary learning experience and what we need to do is not necessarily work harder, but work smarter. Let's hang together and we'll come up with a new plan. Thanks to everyone for your excellent support and all the effort you all put into this.
Rube, Brant, Barrett McMullan
[tomorrow I'm going fishing!]