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Lawmakers fishing for votes with proposed amendment

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Lawmakers fishing for votes with proposed amendment
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

With the United States on the brink of war, you would think state lawmakers would be spending their time on issues such as national security and anti-terrorism, or at least the state budget.

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Instead, our state representatives are dealing with a piece of Chicken Little legislation and warning that if it is not approved the sky will fall. And they are so afraid of speaking out against the issue they feel if they oppose it, it will be like voting against their own mothers.

On Jan. 29, state legislators approved a proposal to change the Wisconsin Constitution to guarantee people the right to hunt, fish and trap. If approved by Wisconsin voters April 1, the amendment giving people "the right to fish, hunt, trap and take game subject only to reasonable restrictions as prescribed by law" would be inserted into the constitution's Declaration of Rights.

The amendment was pushed by state sportsmen's groups that worried that a contentious debate over the mourning dove hunt a few years ago would eventually lead to the erosion of the rights of residents to hunt and fish.

THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!

Wisconsin without hunting? Without fishing?

I doubt we'll ever see that day. Personally, I feel more threatened by people such as Hans Hagen and his proposed multi-million dollar suburb on Quarry Road. I think he's a bigger threat to my right to fish on the Kinnickinnic River than any animal rights groups.

Hunting and fishing are an ingrained part of the state's outdoor tradition which have an estimated $1 billion a year impact on the state's economy. So is this an honest effort to preserve Wisconsin's heritage, or a phony bid to suck up to voters?

Legislators' approval came in the form of lopsided votes. The Assembly endorsed the proposal by a margin of 94-3 while the Senate followed up with a vote of 30-1.

What lawmaker in his right mind would vote against it? You'd be committing political suicide if you told your constituents they didn't have the right to hunt and fish.

But don't we already have that right? Is an amendment to the state constitution really necessary? The constitution is an important document. It should not be trivialized by trying to enact legislation that solves a problem that doesn't exist. You might as well pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to watch the Packers, wear a mullet and do the chicken dance at wedding receptions.

If voters defeat the proposal April 1 (and I doubt that will happen because we all love our mothers), there will be no effect. The guns of autumn will not fall silent, fish will still take the bait and birds will still flush.

If they approve it, it may serve the election campaign of an incumbent well, but it will do little, or nothing, to benefit the state's citizens.

The state Constitution is meant to safeguard basic inalienable right

free speech, the right to assemble and the right to a trial by jury. To amen it to include hunting, fishing and trapping trivializes it for the sole purpose of making a political statement.

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