by Curt Kovener
If you haven’t already voted, there’s a question on your election ballot next week wanting your decision on a constitutional question
Indiana voters will have the chance to decide if people’s right to hunt and fish needs to be declared in the state constitution.
Hoosier lawmakers, following the lead of the National Rifle Association, have gotten this public question to next week’s ballot:
“Shall the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended by adding 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 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?”
Those who want voters to pick “yes” for this question say this change will forever enshrine hunting, fishing and harvesting wildlife as a valued part of Indiana’s heritage. But with or without this amendment, those things will remain a valued part of the state’s heritage.
So will the right to play basketball, grow tomatoes and sweet corn, race dirt track cars or ride bicycles.
The state constitution needn’t be amended to protect those last two. And it needn’t be amended to protect the first three, either. And those are all a part of our Hoosier heritage as well.
Before readers begin calling, writing, emailing, or tweeting me (good luck with that last one) thinking that I am anti-gun, anti-fishing, anti hunting, anti-outdoors you haven’t been reading this column very long, have you?
I live…in the broadest definition of the word…in the wilderness surrounded by Hoosier National Forest. I have written about my hunting and fishing exploits and want you to have your own outdoor stories to tell, too.
My experience with putting the right to hunt and fish in the state constitution will risk causing some unknowing, uninformed ‘outdoorsmen’ to begin trampling on farmers and woodland owners private property rights claiming their state constitutional right to hunt & fish trumps a “No Trespassing” sign. That is not true now and won’t be true should the constitutional question be approved.
But it doesn’t mean that there will not be occurrences of those instances. Private property boundaries could easily be ignored by unknowing (I am refraining from using the inflammatory word ignorant) gun-toting hunter who thinks the constitution is on his side.
There were times when I hunted (for the first and only time) with some unethical outsdoorsmen who said those ‘No Trespassing” signs meant “Be careful. Don’t get caught.”
What does the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the agency charged with protecting the outdoors and enforcing hunting, fishing and trapping laws, have to say about the constitution question?
The DNR does not have a position on the proposed amendment, according to Phil Bloom, communications director for the agency. Bloom explained that the statutory authority of the state’s DNR would not be affected by the amendment because Indiana Code 14 gives the agency the right and authority to manage wildlife in Indiana.
And let’s be reminded on the last constitutional amendment we approved: placing property tax caps into the law of the land. It was marketed to us that it would be a way to keep our individual property taxes from increasing. But the law of unintended consequences has determined that mayors, town councils, county councils, school boards, library boards across the state have had to deal with decreasing revenues for police, fire and ambulance protection because of the property tax caps amendment we voted to place into the constitution.
But I don’t think lawmakers will be passing any measures to overturn the amendment that will result in increased taxes. And I don’t think the voting public will be approving a raise of their taxes either. So we’re stuck with it.
I voted ‘No’ on that tax cap amendment and I will be voting ‘No’ on the hunting & fishing constitutional question next week.
Voting ‘Yes’ on the question makes an unnecessary political statement and truly degrades the sanctity of what should be the state’s most treasured governmental document.
by Curt Kovener