If you haven’t voted yet, you might not have heard about a referendum at the bottom of the ballot. There’s a lot more to it than the overly verbose question about the proposed constitutional amendment lets on.
Try reading this out loud and see how far you get without gasping for oxygen:
“Shall the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended by adding a Section 39 to Article 1 to provide that the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife shall be forever preserved for the public good, subject only to the laws prescribed by the General Assembly and rules prescribed by virtue of the authority of the General Assembly to:
(1) promote wildlife conservation and management; and
(2) preserve the future of hunting and fishing?”
It already has been vetted twice by the Indiana General Assembly, but then so have other laws, which might or might not make sense.
Susan Martin, of Valparaiso, emailed me about this issue. She’s one of the few who have been paying attention and are concerned enough to express their views.
Martin believes hunting and fishing to provide sustenance for the family is a natural right, just like the freedom to worship whoever or whatever a person chooses. Natural rights shouldn’t be regulated by government, she believes.
Let me take a different point of view, but still critical of the proposed constitutional amendment.
What might it mean for the average citizen? Here it is, in layman’s terms:
Local control over anything having to do with hunting and fishing would be eliminated. Only the Indiana General Assembly could control it. And even then, the Legislature would only be allowed to make laws that support the right to hunt and fish.
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So if you have someone hunting in the field behind your home, firing toward your bedroom, tough luck. There’s nothing the local jurisdiction could do to limit the ability of hunters to fire guns and shoot arrows in the direction of your house. The Indiana Constitution would prevent that if this referendum is approved.
The General Assembly could make laws, of course, but look at the wording of that referendum again. Every law would have to preserve the future of hunting and promote wildlife conservation and management. Nowhere in that referendum does it allow public safety to be considered.
Legislators aren’t always the best at considering unintended consequences of their actions. Just look at the number of times the Indiana ACLU has successfully sued the state of Indiana because of ill-considered laws passed by the General Assembly.
Look at the last time the General Assembly was considering a constitutional amendment, too. That would have outlawed same-sex marriage in Indiana. Fortunately, legislators abandoned that attempt before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages are legal throughout the United States.
Remember the “buyer’s remorse” by Congress when, after overriding President Barack Obama’s veto of legislation to allow 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, members of Congress suddenly realized the implications of what they had done and blamed Obama for not warning them about potential consequences for the United States.
That kind of buyer’s remorse could happen if this constitutional amendment becomes law.
What happens if this referendum fails? The status quo prevails. Hunters and fishermen can continue doing what they’re doing.
The only real hunting controversy in the Legislature in recent years has been over whether to continue to allow canned hunts. These are at places that put wildlife in a fenced enclosure rather than allowing the animals to roam free. That makes it easier to hunt. It also puts the herd at greater risk of the spread of disease because the animals are confined.
Surely, that argument regarding canned hunts can be resolved without a constitutional amendment.
Leave the Constitution alone. Vote no on the referendum.
The last law Hoosier voters should adopt is the law of unintended consequences.