Michigan Natural Resources Commission Referendum (2014)

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Natural Resources Commission Referendum
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Type:Veto referendum
State code:Public Act 21
Referred by:Citizens
Topic:Hunting and fishing on the ballot
Status:On the ballot

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission Referendum is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Michigan as a veto referendum. The measure, upon voter approval, would uphold Public Act 21 of 2013, a law that allows the Natural Resources Commission to directly designate game species and determine hunting seasons.[1]

Before the signing of PA 21, game animals needed to be declared in law, which subjected them to potential referenda. In 2006, for example, Michiganders overturned Public Act 160. PA 160 would have allowed for the hunting of mourning doves.

The Wolf Hunting Referendum, which is also on the ballot, is an attempt to overturn PA 520. However, PA 520 was superseded by PA 21, thus rendering the wolf hunting referendum merely symbolic. The Natural Resources Commission Referendum is an attempt to overturn the newer law, PA 21.

Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, a pro-wolf hunting group, initiated their own measure - the Natural Resources Commission Initiative. As an indirect initiated state statute, the state legislature will have the opportunity to vote on the measure if it's signatures are validated. The initiative would render the Natural Resource Commission Referendum moot. Keep Wolves Protected and the Humane Society, along with Common Cause and Progress Michigan, started a coalition called "Let Michigan Vote." Humane Society of the United States President and CEO Wayne Pacelle stated, "The Legislature is allowed to do this, but it’s not good government. It’s a subversion of the (democratic) process."[2]

In Michigan, a "Yes" vote on a veto referendum upholds the law and a "No" vote rejects the law. Therefore, the referendum's supporters are campaigning for a "No" vote.

Background

PA 520

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed the 2012 Public Act 520 on December 31, 2012.[3] The statute established wolf hunting seasons in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Normally, a law would be suspended from measure certification until the statewide election. However, this was not the case when veto referendum supporters turned in valid signatures. Due to PA 21, the state's hunt is no longer designated by the legislature and thus the referendum is an attempt to overturn a law that has been superseded.

PA 21

State Senator Tom Casperson (R-38) sponsored Senate Bill 288, which essentially rendered the referendum meaningless.[4] SB 288 empowered the Natural Resource Commission to declare game animals and establish hunting seasons without legislative action. Prior, game animals needed to be declared in law, which subjected them to potential referenda. Gov. Snyder signed the law on May 8, 2013 and the legislation became known as Public Act 21. Snyder justified his signature by noting, “This action helps ensure sound scientific and biological principles guide decisions about management of game in Michigan.”[5] Referendum supporters initiated the Natural Resources Commission Referendum to overturn PA 21.[6]

Support

Note: Supporters are campaigning for a "no" vote.
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Logo.jpeg

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected sponsored the measure's signature collection and is leading the referendum campaign.[7]

Supporters

  • Wolfwatcher Coalition[8]
  • The Humane Society of the United States

Arguments

  • Nancy Warren, Executive Diretor of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, said, "Decisions of the NRC cannot be challenged by the public. P.A. 21 is a blatant attempt to silence the voices of Michigan residents and it takes away the rights of citizens to challenge game designation decisions."[9]
  • Reviewing statistics from the state’s first wolf hunt, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected’s Jill Fritz said, “But when 1,200 hunters get out in the woods looking for wolves, they discover what scientists and many people in the U.P. have been saying all along: that wolves are shy, elusive animals who want to avoid human contact.”[10]

Campaign contributions

As of April 25, 2014, Keep Michigan's Wolves Protected committee has received $1,473,615.71 in contributions.[11] Contributions will be utilized for both this referendum and the Michigan Wolf Hunting Referendum. The following information is accurate as of June 25, 2014.

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected $1,473,616 $1,046,062
Total $1,473,616 $1,046,062

Top 3 contributors:

Donor Amount
Humane Society of the United States $1,015,783
Humane Society Legislative Fund $255,127
Robert Rhue $60,000

Opposition

Note: Opponents are campaigning for a "yes" vote.

Opponents

Officials

Organizations

  • Michigan United Conservation Clubs[12]

Arguments

Drew YoungeDyke, grassroots manager for Michigan United Conservation Clubs, labeled opponents "radical out-of-state animal rights organizations." He argued the following:[12]

  • "We need to pass this law, otherwise HSUS will continue to target Michigan to take away our hunting and fishing rights, one by one. Contrary to how it raises its money, HSUS spends much of it attacking hunting rights, not sheltering pets. In fact, it has spent over $1 million in Michigan attacking hunting rights just through its two referendums. I wonder how many dogs and cats they could have sheltered with that money if they actually spent it how most of their donors thought it would be spent?"
  • "Some of the anti-hunters claim this is only about wolves, but it’s much larger than that. This is fundamentally about whether we manage wildlife species in Michigan with biology, scientific data and sound management principles, or if we manage wildlife based on how misleading HSUS can make a political commercial or how much money they can spend airing it... Hunting and fishing are vital parts of our heritage and our economy. Our fish and wildlife deserve to be managed with the best available science, not the slickest television commercials."

Media editorial positions

2014 measures
Flag of Michigan.png
August 5
Proposal 1
November 4
Wolf Hunting Referendum
Natural Resources Commission Referendum
Endorsements
Local measures
See also: Endorsements of Michigan ballot measures, 2014

Support

  • The Oakland Post said, “Regardless, the fact is that the reasons for hunting the wolves do not add up. There aren’t any recorded wolf attacks on humans in Michigan. There are non-lethal ways to deal with the wolves. And nobody eats wolf meat anyway. Get out there and sign that petition. At least 161,305 signatures will have to be validated and they’re due March 13. For those reading hot off the press, that’s tomorrow folks.”[13]

Related lawsuits

See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2014

Humane Society v. Johnson et al.

2014 measure lawsuits
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By state
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By lawsuit type
Ballot text
Campaign contributions
Constitutionality
Motivation of sponsors
Petitioner residency
Post-certification removal
Single-subject rule
Signature challenges
Initiative process

The Humane Society Legislative Fund and Keep Michigan Wolves Protected filed a federal lawsuit with Judge Robert Cleland of the Eastern Michigan District Court. The groups asked the court to strike down a state statute requiring petition circulators to be residents of Michigan. Sherri Ferrell, a resident of Florida, desired to help circulate a petition for the referendum, but could not. She alleged, as did the appealing organizations, that her legal inability to do so infringes upon her free speech. The lawsuit stated, "Michigan’s state residency requirement for petition circulators severely restricts the abilities of non-Michigan-residents – including volunteer members of HSLF and Sherri Ferrell – to engage in core political speech in Michigan and to associate with the organizations and Michigan residents who support the initiatives." The lawsuit named Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (R), Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) and Colleen Pero, chairperson of the Board of State Canvassers, as defendants.[14]

The ACLU deemed circulator residency requirements to be unconstitutional. They noted that similar laws have been recently struck down by federal judges.[15] The Local Initiative and Referendum Initiative, which is currently being circulated in Michigan, would eliminate residency requirements.

Judge Cleland dismissed the lawsuit on March 31, 2014 because the legislature passed a law, known as House Bill 5152, that allows for out-of-state circulators on March 27, 2014. Cleland said, "It appears to the court that, upon the Governor’s anticipated approval, the Plaintiffs’ case will become moot. In view of this impending change in the law, the parties have agreed to dismiss this matter."[16]

Commentator Jack Lessenberry, who is against wolf hunting, stated his opposition to the lawsuit, saying, “They’ve asked U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland to throw out this law. Well, I hope he doesn’t. State residents should decide state law. If anybody can come in here to collect signatures, it will make it far easier for people like the Koch brothers to slap all sorts of anti-democratic referenda and amendments on the ballot.”[17]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Michigan

In order to qualify the proposed referendum to the statewide ballot, supporters were required to collect 161,304 valid signatures and turn them in 90 days after the final adjournment of the Legislature.

Proponents submitted signatures to the Michigan Secretary of State on March 13, 2014. They claimed to have gathered 66,000 more than the 161,305 required to put the measure on the ballot.[18] On May 6, 2014, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified 182,732 signatures, thus placing the referendum on the ballot.[19]

Similar measures

See also

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Additional reading

References

  1. MLive.com, "Keep Michigan Wolves Protected launching second petition drive after new law blocked original effort," July 2, 2013
  2. The Detroit News, "Wolf hunting opponents form coalition to push against legislative action blocking vote," July 8, 2014
  3. Michigan Legislature, "Senate Bill 1350 (2012)," accessed January 16, 2014
  4. Michigan Legislature, “Senate Bill 0288 (2013)”, accessed January 13, 2014
  5. Detroit Free Press, “Gov. Rick Snyder signs off on gray wolf hunt in the U.P.”, May 8, 2013
  6. MLive, "Keep Michigan Wolves Protected launching second petition drive after new law blocked original effort," July 2, 2013
  7. Keep Michigan Wolves Protected
  8. Wolfwatcher Coalition, "Michigan Wolves," accessed February 27, 2014
  9. The Detroit News, "Let our wolves go unhunted," February 18, 2014
  10. Battle Creek Enquirer, "First Michigan wolf hunt falls short of quota," January 4, 2014
  11. Michigan Secretary of State, "Michigan Committee Statement of Organization," accessed April 2, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 The Detroit News, "Letter: Manage wildlife with sound science, not soundbites," March 4, 2014
  13. The Oakland Post, "Join the OU wolfpack: Protect Michigan wolves from hunters," March 12, 2014
  14. MLive, "Wolf hunt opponents challenging Michigan law on collecting signatures for ballot questions," February 10, 2014
  15. Washington Times, "Mich. sued over residency rule in petition drives," February 10, 2014
  16. MLive, "Judge dismisses ballot proposal suit after Michigan Legislature OKs out-of-state petition circulators," April 1, 2014
  17. Michigan Radio, "People defending wolves need to fight fairly," February 13, 2014
  18. WEMU, "Wolf Hunt Issue getting Closer to Ballot," March 12, 2014
  19. MLive, "Another anti-wolf hunt proposal approved for Michigan ballot," May 6, 2014