Proposed hunting, fishing amendment to start over

An Indiana Senate committee passed a proposed constitutional amendment Monday that would protect Hoosiers’ right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife – but without language to protect farming that was included three years ago.

That means the constitutional amendment process must start over.

Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, who authored Senate Joint Resolution 9, also authored the proposed amendment when it passed in 2011.

“The facts haven’t changed. The numbers haven’t changed, hardly, with regard to its financial and fiscal impact both to the state and your local communities,” Steele said. “This resolution is self-explanatory. We’ve been to this dance before.”

In Indiana, a resolution must pass two consecutive legislatures before it goes to the ballot for ratification.

But the 2011 the amendment included language that extended the protection to include farmers’ rights. Steele said he changed the amendment to comply with requests from agriculture groups that he said didn’t want to fight for it.

He’s also backing Senate Bill 186, which would provide a statutory protection for farmers.

Erin Huang, Indiana director of the Humane Society of the United States, said she is concerned that poachers and others who wish to exploit the system would use it to challenge existing restrictions. She called it “a solution in search of a problem.”

“Unnecessarily putting this existing right into our constitution ties the hands of the legislature, limits its power and could invite lawsuits from individuals who want to argue that conservation laws like bag limits and season dates for a particular species infringe upon their right to hunt and fish or harvest wildlife,” Huang said.

But Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Carlin Yoder said it is a non-issue, as current regulation laws would still be in full effect.

The amendment once again passed the first round of ratification but it must still be agreed to by the General Assembly one more time before it can go to state voters.

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