Michigan wolf hunting opponents turn in signatures for second veto referendum

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March 14, 2014

By Ryan Byrne

Supporters of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission Referendum submitted signatures to the Michigan Secretary of State on March 13, 2014. They estimated that they collected 225,000 signatures. That's 63,695 more signatures than the necessary 161,304 valid signatures to have their measure placed on the upcoming general election ballot in November.[1] Jill Fritz, director of the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, said that people were enthusiastic to sign their petitions. She claimed, "It was incredibly cold and our volunteers were out there the cold in the worst winter in a century to collect those signatures, just for our right to vote on an issue. They were grabbing the pens out of our hands to sign the petitions."[2] If signatures are approved, this would be the second anti-wolf hunting veto referendum placed on the ballot for November 2014. The first one was placed on the ballot in May 2013. Both were sponsored by the same organizations. The following paragraph explains why there are two anti-wolf hunting measures.

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed the 2012 Public Act 520 (PA 520) on December 31, 2012. The statute established wolf hunting seasons in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.[3] In Michigan, a law is suspended from a veto referendum's certification until the statewide election. However, this was not the case, at least not in practice, when veto referendum supporters turned in valid signatures. The Wolf Hunting Referendum, which would overturn PA 520, did suspend the law, but the legislature passed a new law to supersede PA 520, thus rendering the referendum merely symbolic and practically meaningless. This new law was the 2013 Public Act 21 (PA 21), which empowered the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to designate animals, including wolves, as game species and establish hunting seasons without prior legislative consent. The Michigan Natural Resources Commission is a seven member commission appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Michigan Senate. Gov. Snyder signed the law on May 8, 2013, right before the referendum's signatures were verified. Snyder justified his signature by arguing, “This action helps ensure sound scientific and biological principles guide decisions about management of game in Michigan.”[4] Like Snyder, pro-wolf hunting politicians and activists have stated that hunting should be regulated in a sound scientific manner, not by the legislature or by a ballot initiative.[5] Anti-wolf hunting activists, like Nancy Warren, the executive director of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, think PA 21 is an attempt to "silence the voices of Michigan residents and it takes away the rights of citizens to challenge game designation decisions."[6] Fritz stated a similar sentiment, saying, "The Legislature’s actually amended Michigan statute for the sole reason of circumventing a voter referendum. It’s just wrong. Everything from beginning to end has been wrong, but the citizens are here to say, we want a chance to vote on it. We’re just very excited to be able to turn in a large amount of signatures to demonstrate that the public is not in support of wolf hunting in our state." They've also argued that scientific evidence is on their side of the debate.[7]

Proponents of the Wolf Hunting Referendum, like Keep Michigan's Wolves Protected and the Humane Society of the United States, decided that their best option was to place a second veto referendum on the ballot, the Natural Resources Commission Referendum, which would overturn PA 21.[8] Michiganders will find out in the coming weeks whether or not they'll have two anti-wolf hunting referendums on the ballot.

See also