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N.H. House endorses Senate’s ban on small lead sinkers, jigs

The House voted yesterday to follow the Senate in banning lead fishing jigs and sinkers that weigh an ounce or less.

Environmentalists said the ban will help protect loons from lead poisoning.

“With apologies to the purple finch, I think a case could be made that the loon is, in fact, de facto state bird in many people’s minds. . . . They are not plentiful, so a little protection’s a good thing,” said Rep. David Kidder, a New London Republican.

But anglers and others opposed the legislation, saying it might not do much to protect the aquatic birds and would increase the cost of fishing in New Hampshire.

“Are we going to turn our backs on constituents who represent New Hampshire’s recreational fishing?” asked Rep. Elisabeth Sanders, a Danville Republican.

The vote yesterday by the Democratic-led House was 225-142 to pass the bill. Thirty-four Republicans joined 191 Democrats to support it, while 13 Democrats joined 129 Republicans to oppose it.

The Republican-led Senate passed a similar version of the bill March 14 on a voice vote. But Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan hasn’t taken a position on it.

“The governor appreciates the need to protect New Hampshire’s wildlife and preserve what makes our state special and will closely review the legislation,” said spokesman Marc Goldberg.

Under current state law, lead sinkers weighing an ounce or less are illegal and lead jigs are banned if they measure less than inch long. This year’s bill would change the rules to base both bans on weight and not length.

The ban would take effect in mid-2016 under the House’s bill, instead of mid-2015 as under the Senate bill.

An attempt was made yesterday to push the ban’s implementation out further, to mid-2019. Rep. Jim Webb, a Derry Republican, called the ban a “feel-good bill” and added, “Why should businesses have to take a loss?”

That amendment was rejected on a 222-117 vote. A later attempt to table the bill itself also was rejected, 211-156.

The Senate will decide whether to concur with the House’s version of the bill and send it to Hassan’s desk, reject it or seek a committee of conference to hammer out some sort of compromise.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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