The Mississippi Legislature has officially been in session since last January. The story on the street since then has been rumors of the availability of additional money this year due mainly to high sales tax collections from Katrina rebuilding business.

Now, though, talk of any extra funds is cooling off, so time will tell what will happen.

This translates into a pack of special-interest groups and all public agencies sharpening their pencils and lining up with requests to be appropriated those funds. So the main fight, as always, will be over money and who gets what.

Those of us who are outdoor enthusiasts are, of course, primarily interested in legislative action on bills that relate to all the various forms of outdoor recreation that we enjoy. It is important for us to keep up with what is happening each year in this arena.

All of the legislative bills that have been introduced can be viewed on line at www.billstatus.ls.state.ms.us, so spend some time there and check it out. You'll be amazed at what you see.

Indeed, it is an interesting lesson in our form of government just to spend some time surveying bills submitted to every committee in the House and the Senate. Before you do, get out the aspirin bottle. Undoubtedly you will see some things there that will make you scratch your head. But, it's all part of the process, and I don't know of a better one anywhere else in the world.

To date, here is a selection of bills that have been filed with the Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks committees in the House and the Senate. Other bills will undoubtedly be filed before the final deadline. A number of these bills, or ones like them, are submitted year after year and then quietly die in committee. This will undoubtedly be the case again this session.

House Bills

HB 8 - Deer hunting; extend dog hunting session to 45 days total. Died in committee.

HB 107 - Requires use of PFD by every person on board certain vessels regardless of age. Died in committee.

HB 340 - Antlerless deer; delete prohibition against nonresident killing. Died in committee.

HB 423 - Deer hunting; create pilot program in certain counties allowing hunting over grain. Completely rewritten to allow the wildlife department to manage any deer feeding program or not. Bill is currently in conference between House and Senate committees. This is a bill to watch.

HB 508 - Life jackets; increase minimum age of persons required to wear on certain vessels. Died in committee.

HB 606 & HB 912 - Deer hunting; legalize hunting over bait. Both bills died in committee.

Senate Bills

SB 2077 - Wave park entry fees for the elderly and disabled. Died in committee

SB 2513 - Deer; allow baiting of deer with corn. Died in committee.

SB 2515 - Deer; allow baiting of deer on private lands. Died in committee.

SB2783 - Deer; revise minimum antler restrictions. Returned for concurrence. This is one Senate bill to watch since it may impact future buck harvest regulations.

How the system works

I guess too many people should not be surprised that most citizens of the state have absolutely no idea how bills become law in Mississippi. It's also a shock to most people to find out that legislators most often do not write any legislation themselves.

A legislator may either have a recommendation for a new law or a change in an existing provision given to him by many other sources including citizens or state agencies, or they might simply have an idea of their own.

Oftentimes, several legislators will band together to sponsor a particular piece of legislation. This line up seems to be mostly done for political posturing.

After an idea gets outlined by the legislator, it is transferred to a secretary to type up in a rough form. Then the legislator sits down with one of the many legal-eagle attorneys hired by the legislature whose specialty it is to actually translate the idea into the format of a legislative bill. Then the bill is officially filed for consideration.

Then it gets referred to the appropriate committee, which will take action to approve the bill for the whole floor to consider or kill it for lack of interest or politics. This happens on both sides of the legislature with similar bills.

Eventually the bill could work its way through both the House and the Senate, be approved, or referred back to joint committees to negotiate the provisions, or the bill could die in its tracks in committee via deadline dates.

After that, if a final approved bill comes out of committee, then it ends up on the desk of the governor, who may or may not sign it. If he vetoes the bill, then a veto override is possible, but this is usually unlikely.

It is easy to see how so many bills get sidetracked year after year and never become law, which may be a good thing.

That is why each year hunters and anglers see the same bills come up again and again, such as the deer-baiting issue. I guess given enough years of consideration, a bill might eventually get passed, but much of that has to do with input by the voting population of this state.

If there is an issue out there that you are really passionate about, then get engaged in the process. Legislators will listen to the folks who vote for them, but only if enough of us make the call.