Other opinions

New wolf hunt bill ignores wishes expressed by state voters

Last week, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law that would once again make it possible to hunt gray wolves in Michigan – if or when the protected animal is removed from the federal endangered species list.

The newest law, passed in lame duck session, is another in a growing list of examples of the governor and Republican-controlled Legislature ignoring the will of the people.

In 2012, the Michigan Legislature passed Public Act 520 establishing wolves a game species and setting in motion plans for a statewide hunting season.

In 2013, Public Act 21 gave the Natural Resources Commission — appointed by the governor — authority to designate wolves a game species and establish a hunting policy.

What followed was Michigan’s first legal wolf hunt in decades – 23 wolves killed in a 45-day hunting window in the Upper Peninsula. The state’s wolf population stands at about 650.

In 2014, both Public Act 520 and 21 were overturned by veto referendum (Proposal 1 and Proposal 2 on the November ballot, respectively).

Another law would follow to confirm the power to set hunting policy rested with the Commission and not voters.

The wolf hunt was short-lived, however. It was suspended in December 2014 when the animals were placed back on the endangered species list due to a Federal court decision.

Proponents of the laws granting authority to the Natural Resources Commission believe commission members understand the science better than most voters. Opponents say voters already have spoken on the matter, for better or worse, several times.

The wolf hunt issue is just one example of a larger trend in which elected officials defy the will of the people who elected them.

Other examples:

In 2012, voters in a referendum rejected an emergency manager law that had been signed by the governor in 2011.

A month after the November election, in the lame duck session, the Legislature passed and Snyder signed a new emergency manager law, with an appropriation attached so it was not subject to referendum.

Also in the 2012 lame duck session, the Legislature passed and Snyder signed the controversial right-to-work bill, which again had an appropriation attached to make it referendum-proof.

The 2016 law to again allow a wolf hunt also includes an appropriation.

This trend must stop. Legislators are elected to represent their constituents and act in their best interests. Circumventing democracy by ignoring the obvious will of the people does little to inspire confidence in our statewide leaders.

The wolf hunting legislation itself may seem like a minor issue to many. But the overriding tenor of the debate – the majority’s “we-can-do-this-because-we-have-all-the-power” attitude – does not bode well for Michigan’s future.

— Lansing State Journal

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