Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 26, 2013

Forum: Bill attacks citizen lawmaking

BY WAYNE PACELLE

---- — Some politicians in the Michigan Legislature have launched an all-out assault on democratic decision-making. Just two weeks after citizens gathered more than a quarter million signatures to nullify an act of the Legislature to authorize trophy hunting and commercial trapping of the state’s declining wolf population, the leading anti-wolf legislator in the state has proposed a new bill that would go even further and attempt to derail the people’s referendum - and then some.

Sen. Tom Casperson’s bill, SB 288, would allow the unelected, seven-member Michigan Natural Resources Commission to add animals to the list of game species to be hunted for sport or trophies, at any time and without public input. It’s so radical and far-reaching that it would also enable the repeal of one of the most popular ballot measures in Michigan history: the measure to bar the target shooting of mourning doves.

In 2006, 69 percent of Michigan voters banned the shooting of mourning doves, with people in all 83 counties and all 110 House and 38 Senate districts, including Sen. Casperson’s, opposing the idea of opening up a target shooting season on the gentle birds. SB 288 is a de facto repeal of that citizen referendum, and it amounts to an unprecedented transfer of wildlife-policy making authority from the Legislature to a handful of political appointees.

So hungry to wipe out wolves, these politicians are even diluting their own power to pass game species policy by granting this authority to a handful of political appointees, who are accountable to no one. If passed, SB 288 means that this unelected panel could ignore the will of the people, and allow wolf hunting or dove hunting, regardless of what the voters say, or have said, on these matters.

And it won’t stop there. Sandhill cranes and other rare wildlife species could be listed by the commission as game animals under SB 288, without any legislative review.

In a cynical and underhanded political maneuver, Sen. Casperson’s bill even includes a $1 million appropriation of funds to make it referendum-proof. They are so sure that citizens would loudly object to this power grab that they are willing to waste $1 million in tax dollars in this cash-strapped economy just to cram wolf hunting and dove hunting down the throats of the voters.

Reasonable people can disagree about matters of wildlife protection, but the foundation stone of our democracy is the respect for the right to vote and an adherence to the rule of law. Some Michigan lawmakers are prepared to creep right up to the edge of responsible representative government and dismantle citizen lawmaking in order to further their ambitions to kill wildlife. This is intolerable.

SB 288 is a short-sighted and unprecedented attack on citizen law-making. Every Michigan resident should pick up the phone and tell their legislators to reject this attack on Michigan voters and on the democratic process.

About the author: Wayne Pacelle is the president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States and the author of the bestselling book “The Bond: Our Kinship With Animals, Our Call to Defend Them.”

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.