Fraudulent fishermen better reel it in. The Senate passed a bill today to make cheating in a fishing tournament up to a third-degree felony, sending the measure on to the governor.You know what the punishment should be for cheating or lying about the length of a fish in a tournament if you get caught? Disqualification. Ban them from future tournaments. If the tournament is affiliated with others, ban them from those. Why can't the private sector take care of this on its own? Why should law enforcement be involved at all, much less make it a third degree felony? After all, prosecution for the offense assumes the perpetrator is found out; if they don't catch cheaters, they face no penalty, criminal or otherwise.
HB 1806 expands existing law to all fishing tournaments, from fresh to salt water. It would make it an offense for contestants to give, take, offer or accept a fish not caught as part of the tournament. It would also be an offense to misrepresent a fish.
Looking at this bill, though, claims about fish lengths, weights and numbers at tournaments had already been subsumed under the purview of law enforcement, this just boosts the penalty to felony status. An already existing provision in the law holds that "A person commits an offense if the person sponsors or conducts a fishing tournament and knows of the occurrence in the tournament of activity prohibited by Subsection (b) of this section and does not immediately notify a law enforcement officer commissioned by the director of its occurrence." So not only is cheating or lying about your catch an offense, it's an offense for tournament managers not to report it!
A 3rd degree felony obligates taxpayers to a 2-10 year prison sentence, or if the fisherman is put on probation, that puts them at greater risk of imprisonment later for violating their probation terms. Government has no business being involved in prosecuting fishermen for exaggerating their catch. I'm certain you could have prosecuted half the boys in my senior class for lying about the biggest fish they ever caught. I don't condone doing it in a tournament, but I can't fathom why it's the government's job punish hyperbolic anglers for misrepresenting a fish when the private sector has ample remedies available to them.
The bill appears to have passed the Senate unamended (out of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee) and so will now head to the Governor. The Coastal Conservation Association gave the only testimony in favor of the bill, with no one opposing it in committee in either chamber. As always, the Legislative Budget Board says it's cost is insignificant.
Texas had 2,383 felonies when the session started. No telling yet how many new ones the Lege will pass this year, but Grits' pre-session prediction was 55. Nobody really tallies them all comprehensively until the parole board must assign new felonies risk categories later this year. But there are a bunch of them. You'd never know the Lege is broke because they seem to think more incarceration can solve any and every social problem: Even dishonest, exaggerating fishermen.