Aug. 14–LANSING — The issue of hunting wolves in the Upper Peninsula intersected with the historic flooding in Detroit today as the state Senate passed a citizen-initiated law that will allow the hunt to continue.
But the fact that the Senate dealt with the wolf hunt on its only day of the session in August, instead of issues like improving Michigan’s roads and other crucial infrastructure in the wake of the flooding this week, drew the ire of Democrats.
“Democracy is one of the founding principles of our nation, but you continue to treat people like your subjects, rather than your bosses,” said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing. “It’s not as if we don’t have serious work we could be doing here today. Metro Detroit is literally under water. Our roads are still falling apart. But on the one day you bother to show up for work this month, you ignore all that and come here to take away the rights of the people to vote again.”
On a mostly party-line vote of 23-10, the Senate passed the citizen-initiated legislation that would give control of what species of animal can be hunted to the Natural Resources Commission. The legislation — spearheaded by the Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, which collected enough signatures to put the issue before the Legislature — is intended to circumvent a ballot proposal pushed by Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, which would have stopped the wolf hunt.
“The Michigan legislative sportsmen’s caucus considers this the No. 1 priority this year,” said state Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville. “One in six Michiganders hunt or fish. As their representatives, we must ensure public policy decisions are based on sound science, not partisan politics or emotions.”
And Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, one of the biggest supporters of continuing the wolf hunt, said supporting the legislation was about protecting Michigan’s hunting heritage.
“The U.S. Humane Society has been backing this all along,” he said, noting the organization that bankrolled the two petition drives to stop the wolf hunt. “They’re misleading about their true intentions. This is about taking away our hunting privileges.”
But Democrats said it was about taking away the Michigan residents’ right to vote on the issue.
“You’re giving a small special interest group their way instead of letting the issue go on the ballot,” said Sen. Coleman Young II, D-Detroit. “It is a tried and true Republican tactic to take issue out of hands of voters when they need to guarantee a victory.”
He cited other examples of the Legislature acting to co-opt ballot proposals, including: repealing the emergency manager law, only to have a new law passed by the Legislature; passing a minimum wage hike to $9.25 an hour to circumvent a ballot initiative that raised the rate to $10.10 per hour, and passing a citizen-initiated bill to require women to buy a separate rider to their health insurance if they wanted abortion coverage after two governors had vetoed similar bills.
The bill still has to go to the House of Representatives, which expects to take it up on Aug. 27. If lawmakers pass the legislation, it will automatically become law. If they reject it or do nothing, the issue will go on the November general election ballot. The last time the House took up the issue of allowing the hunt, it passed with bipartisan support.
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected director Jill Fritz urged the House to reject the legislation.
“The voters can be trusted, and should be allowed to hear the arguments from both sides and make an informed judgment this November,” she said in a statement. “We call on House members to end this abuse of power, and restore respect for the democratic process by letting the people vote.”
The first wolf hunt was held in November and December last year and had a goal of killing 43 of the Upper Peninsula’s population of more than 650 wolves. The hunt resulted in 23 wolves being killed by hunters.
Contact Kathleen Gray: 517-372-8661 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @michpoligal.