2016 ballot includes public question to amend the Indiana Constitution

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — Indiana voters are not just casting a ballot for candidates this November, they can also expect to vote on a constitutional amendment.

It’s a public question that could turn a privilege into a right — whether to make hunting, fishing and harvesting wildlife a state right. Those activities are currently protected by what is known as the public trust doctrine, but it’s more of a privilege.

This amendment would give people the right to hunt, fish and farm subject only to the laws that would promote wildlife conservation and management that preserve the future of hunting and fishing.

Local hunter John Gross hopes you will vote yes.

“Any time you can enhance a citizen’s rights, it’s wonderful,” Gross said.

But Hoosier Environmental Council attorney Kim Ferraro does not think the right to hunt, fish and farm is necessary since it’s already protected under the public trust doctrine.

“There’s no threat to hunting and fishing, and there never has been,” Ferraro said.

State Sen. Jim Buck begs to differ.

“We’ve witnessed over the last few years increasing efforts through Legislative proposals to infringe on the right to fish, hunt and farm,” Buck said.

“Could you be more specific on what some of those might have been?” asked News 18’s Kayla Sullivan.

Buck replied, “Well, some of them had to do with the agricultural side. Different organizations were trying to come on the property and show how animals weren’t being treated well, and the reality of it is — it is farming.”

Ferraro worries the amendment will undermine existing laws and regulations.

“Bag limits, fish limits, those kinds of things could be threatened by the fact that existing regulations were passed before this activity became constitutionally protected,” said Ferraro.

Buck said that won’t happen.

“We still have all of those regulations intact,” said Buck.

Nineteen states already have the constitutional right to hunt and fish. But Ferraro questions motive, especially since the National Rifle Association backs the movement.

“I would urge voters to consider why the gun lobby thinks that there is a need for constitutional protection,” Ferraro said. “And the obvious answer to that is to expand more gun sales.”

Gross added, “It has nothing to do with that. It’s about hunting and fishing. All you’re doing is ensuring that the right is going to stay with us.”

In addition to that yes or no question, voters will also be answering questions concerning the retention of two appellate court judges — 4th District Judge Patricia Riley and 3rd District Judge James Kirsch. All Indiana counties will vote on retaining Riley, but only Tippecanoe County ballots will will vote on retaining Kirsch. For more information on these judges, please visit the Indiana.gov website to see their biographies.