By ANNIE GOELLER, Daily Journal
When you head to a poll, you might be surprised that the first question on your ballot isn’t your choice for the next president.
In fact, the first item doesn’t ask you to pick a candidate at all.
The only answer you will give is a simple yes or no.
If approved with enough yes votes, the public question more than two years in the works would amend the state constitution to add the right to hunt and fish.
Under state law, residents already are allowed to hunt and fish with the right permits and in the right areas. But this would add that right permanently into the Indiana Constitution, making it harder to ever remove or alter, said State Rep. Sean Eberhart, a Republican who represents Shelby, Hancock and Bartholomew counties and co-authored the legislation that led to the public question.
The issue stems from recent proposals, including from outside interest groups, to limit or change hunting and fishing rules, Eberhart said. Lawmakers were concerned residents’ rights were being threatened, he said.
“Part of our heritage is built on these types of activities, hunting and fishing, so I think it’s the right time for us here in Indiana to make this type of decision,” Eberhart said.
Eberhart has been chairman of the House committee on natural resources for six years, and has seen more than one proposal that would have limited or taken away Hoosiers’ rights to hunt and fish, including when lawmakers were discussing the issue of confined hunting operations, he said. He has also noted recent court cases, where judges have made decisions that could impact those rights, he said.
Amending the state constitution would solidify residents’ rights, and leave the decision to lawmakers, where it should be, he said.
Changing the constitution again later would require the same extensive process, where lawmakers have to approve the same proposal in two legislative sessions separated by an election and then it has to be approved by voters in a statewide vote, he said.
Voters will be making the decision about the amendment this fall, and Eberhart is confident it will pass.
But he has heard questions from voters who had no idea the issue would be on their ballots this fall. He thinks that is because no group has been advocating for or against the proposal, he said.
Shall the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended by adding a 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 the 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?