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Senators want to make hunting laws hard to kill

Imagine a Utah where no one can hunt or fish.

State senators envisioned such a world this week, and most didn't like the image one bit. It was rather nightmarish for some.And although no animal-rights group has yet proposed a statewide ban on hunting or fishing, the Senate took a definite step toward fending off such an attack Wednesday.

The Senate voted 25-3 to send on to the House a joint resolution calling for a state constitutional amendment making it more difficult for anti-hunting-and-fishing groups to restrict those practices.

The proposed constitutional change would require any future constitutional amendment involving the killing of wildlife to gain two-thirds majority approval from voters before becoming law.

Voters would have to approve the proposed constitutional amendment in the 1998 general election.

Supporters of the bill are particularly worried about citizen-initiated referendums.

They can see a scenario in which animal-rights groups repeatedly place an initiative on the ballot to limit or prohibit the taking of wildlife. It might fail several times, but voters could become complacent and not vote against the initiative in subsequent years, figuring it will just fail again.

But eventually, they fear, such an initiative could become law - if only a simple majority of voters is needed.

"This is a very real threat," Sen. Leonard Blackham, R-Moroni, said during debate of his bill Wednesday. "This is an act to definitely discourage that kind of activity in the state of Utah."

Sen. Robert Steiner, D-Salt Lake City, was one of the three senators who voted against the resolution. He found it "remarkable that we would take away the ability of the majority of people" to decide any issue.

Sen. Millie Peterson, D-West Valley City, also opposed the measure after receiving a number of e-mail messages from out-of-state hunters. She said she had a problem with nonresidents telling Utah lawmakers how to vote on the measure.

Sen. David Buhler, R-Salt Lake City, also voted against the measure.

The resolution must be supported by a two-thirds majority vote in the House before being sent on to the governor for his signature. If signed, a simple majority of voters this November could make the proposed change a part of the state constitution.