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Shoot down initiative measures

Wild things are not only roaming in Utah's wilderness, they are running loose on Utah's Capitol Hill. One of them is a proposal to amend Utah's constitution, making it more difficult to pass any ballot initiative related to harvesting wildlife.

Constitutional amendments on the state and federal levels are nothing to be taken lightly. They especially should not be passed in attempts to micro-manage policy matters. Yet that is the impetus behind Senate Joint Resolution 10.SJR10 would amend Utah's constitution to require two-thirds of voters to approve any hunting initiatives instead of a simple majority. It is an attempt to make citizen initiatives banning or curtailing various types of hunting more difficult to pass. The amendment should not happen, regardless of arguments for and against the legal killing of wild animals.

Making this constitutional change would elevate hunting issues above others of equal or greater importance. What valid reason is there to require two-thirds approval for some initiatives but not others?

Pro-hunting groups are concerned about dwindling participation and public support, evidenced by decreasing numbers of hunters in recent years. In some states, political foes of hunters have organized through citizen initiatives to ban cougar hunting, bear baiting and other disputed wildlife practices.

There is no strong evidence of that in Utah, however. And if there was, it should be resolved on a level playing field through political processes already in place. A constitutional amendment would unfairly favor hunting proponents.

Interestingly, SJR10 coincides with another measure, HB304, that is also being accused of targeting potential anti-hunters. That bill would increase the number of counties from which petition signatures must be obtained from 15 to 20. Why?

Sponsor Rep. Kevin Garn, R-Layton, and other proponents say it will ensure initiatives have broad statewide appeal and prevent Utah from becoming a ballot-initiative hotbed. But 15 counties is a majority of the state's 29, and it already is difficult enough to get an initiative on the ballot. There is no evidence of a problem, and this measure would limit citizen access to government. It should be rejected by the Legislature, as should SJR10.