Ted Simons: Proposition 109 would amend the state constitution to protect hunting and fishing rights, and would make the two activities the preferred way to manage wildlife. We'll hear from both sides of the issue, but first, David Majure tells us more about prop 109.
David Majure: Proposition 109 was referred to the ballot by the state legislature and amends Arizona's state constitution by adding a section if approved by voters does the following. Makes hunting and fishing a constitutional right. Gives the state legislature exclusive authority to manage wildlife and prohibits the enactment of any rule or law that unreasonably restricts hunting and fishing and makes lawful hunting and finishing the preferred means of wildlife planning in the state. The national rifle association is one group that urged lawmakers to send the measure to November's ballot.
>> It provides meaningful protections against the attacks we know will come. Hunters are a minority of the popularity. The majority benefits from what hunting does and what hunters do, but they're a minority of the population. That's why we need this protection.
>> There's no threat on these issues.
>> This past Friday, a campaign was launched to defeat 109. Arizonans against the power grab includes local animal rights and environmental groups and the humane society of the United States.
>> It is a proposition in search of a problem. No one is working to ban hunting but maybe if there's terrible abuse like bear baiting or something that emerges, we want to see the initiative process reserved to address those problems if the legislature doesn't have the foresight do it on their own.
Ted Simons: Joining me to talk about prop 109 is state representative Jerry Weiers. He sponsored the legislation that sent the measure to the ballot. And Stephanie Nichols-young, representing the animal defense league of Arizona and a group called Arizonans against power grab, which is against prop 109. Thank you both for being here.
Jerry Weiers & Stephanie Nichols-Young: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Why is it necessary to amend the constitution for this?
Jerry Weiers: I guess -- I guess the short answer would be -- is to protect what I've had as a hunter, a fisherman, what parents and grandparents have had the opportunity that, you know, the opportunities they had self years ago, several decades ago are slowly being lost and I don't want my grandchildren to not know what was available to me.
Ted Simons: Rights of hunters, need to be protected? Valid?
Stephanie Nichols-Young: Not at all. There's no threat to the rights of hunters. The biggest threat to wildlife in our state is habitat loss, yet we're wasting our time with this measure. It's a power grab by the politicians, they're trying to take power away from the game and fish agency and from the voters of the state.
Ted Simons: But back to the original point, do these rights to hunt and fish, do they need to be protected from future threats?
Stephanie Nichols-Young: They don't. Arizona has a long history of hunting and fishing. Our game agency is focused on providing opportunities to hunt. No one is looking to change that. My organization, I went to my first game and fish commission meeting in the 1980s and I go to virtually every commission meeting and I've worked with the commissioners in the department but frankly, there's no threat to hunting and fishing rights in our state.
Ted Simons: Solution in search of a problem?
Jerry Weiers: I don't see it that way. I first after you will the statement it's a power grab is totally wrong. And, in fact, there is no power grab. This is the first time that the legislature through the house and senate, the votes through the governor, also signing it, the governor didn't have to sign this, excuse me, the house and legislature both passing this bill were in essence saying that we're willing to give up some of our power. It goes to the power of the people. Right now, if somebody decides they want to take away a certain issue, in hunting or finishing, a different type of hook or whatever, they can go to the legislature and they can force that through. With going to the ballot, the constitution, it would take a majority of the people rather than just a few legislators to change it. It's not a power grab. It's one the few times that the game and fish commission voted to support this. We're not taking authority way from them. We want to make sure anything that's done through game management is done through science and not emotion and that's typically what happens in these types of events. People get emotionally wrapped up in something they have no knowledge of because they don't do it.
Ted Simons: How do you respond?
Stephanie Nichols-Young: It truly is a power grab and we can go through the arcane effect of this. But I hope voters read it. Because it's an ambiguously worded provision and what we have now is in title 17. It lays out the authority of the agency. It takes that away because it puts this in the constitution and grabs power from that agency in a way it has never had in the 80 years it's existed. It's intended to grab power from voters. The reason it says exclusive authority to enact law, the intent is to take away citizens initiative right on any wildlife issue. It takes power from the citizens and the agency that has the expertise. Our concern, it's going to be a back seat to science. Instead of science as the agency considers in its decision, it's not going to consider science. It's all about politics.
Ted Simons: The idea -- go ahead, please.
Jerry Weiers: Obviously, we could do this for hours and you only give us a few minutes, but there's no power grab of the citizens of the state of Arizona, still have that option. No one is telling them they can't do it any longer. Secondly, the legislature right now has control and we can pass laws and write over the commission system. We can currently do that right now. The legislature by passing this bill, putting it on a proposition is saying we want it to go to the citizens and only when the citizens agree, the citizens -- I don't see a power grab. This is one of the few times we're allowing the citizens to make the decision, instead of the legislature.
Ted Simons: If the citizens can make the decision, maybe a different route than taken before, does that not allow for folks to say, we don't want this anymore, we want to change it. We'll go to the ballot. Do it ourselves.
Stephanie Nichols-Young: That's a fallacy. The system now, and the way you're expressing, it's like you don't understand what you've passed. The citizens, if the citizens want to pass any initiative and the founders thought it an important right, they can gather signatures and put it on the ballot. If this has the intent that the folks who ran this had, it would mean no one can run a wildlife initiative and that was stated during the session. I attended those hearings. That's part of the power grab. And the other piece, the legislature is the legislative body of our state. But right now, title 17 delegates primary wildlife management authority under the executive branch to the game and fish commission and they have -- Arizona has the best provisions because it's largely insulated from politics. Most states envy the current system we have and now they want to change it and what will happen is game and fish will have less authority, anything they do will be scrutinized more and we have ambiguously written terms like lawfully and unreasonable and surely require court interpretation but the legislature isn't giving up any power because they're given exclusive authority to enact laws so for Jerry to say they have to amend the constitution, it's disingenuous.
Ted Simons: Respond, please.
Jerry Weiers: Obviously, we're not going to agree on this. The legislature currently has control over this and we currently have that right now. The real issue, if the people would lay the cards on the table, the real issue, if somebody in the future wants to come back and start trying to change issues as far as banning certain types of hunting, it's going to require more people to sign petitions to change the constitution. That's the real issue and that's the one thing they're not bringing up.
Ted Simons: How many threats have there been to hunting, to fishing that would require a constitutional amendment for the rights of hunters and fishermen?
Jerry Weiers: Our constitution, when this first came out, even the U.S. constitution, a lot of people are saying there's no problem here. The reason we came out with the constitution and certain rights was to protect the freedoms and liberties we currently have. That goes back, you know, more than 200 years ago. It's -- I don't want to wait until I have a problem and fix it. I want to Sox the problem before it becomes an issue.
Ted Simons: There's all sorts of rights that should be considered and all sorts of pieces of legislation and referrals to the voters, why is this one so important to amend the constitution?
Jerry Weiers: To me, personally, I'm a life member of the elk society and the antelope foundation and hunters support better than 70% of the game and fish. The money that comes from the Robinson Pitman act and the habitat that's controlled and maintained, is -- if you take the hunters out of the equation and regulate by emotions rather than by science and biology. Then we run into issues like where you have deer in the middle of the streets, and cars hit them and people are dying. Arizona is one the best run states for game management. Hunters want to come here to hunt because we have high-quality game here, good habitat. But the real issue, Arizona's going to continue to grow. Even though we're in a recession and our habitat is going to keep diminishing and we have to protect it and hunters, you have fewer and fewer, there's less money to do that.
Stephanie Nichols-Young: There's one issue I have to jump in on. You're misrepresenting the budget. Hunters make a big contribution, but the money is federal dollars that are taxes on guns and ammunition and the vast majority are not for hunting, they're for self-protection and target shooting and the game and fish issue is complex. We've got Heritage dollars, we’ve got Indian gaming dollars and matching dollars and I want to be clear --
Ted Simons: The final question and we have to make this quickly. We've had similar debates in the past, sportsmen feel shut out of the process. They contribute a lot in terms of money and wildlife management and these things, but in the past, they may not have been heard as much as they would have liked to have been heard.
Stephanie Nichols-Young: It is not valid. Sportsmen run the show. When I go to game and fish committee meeting, there's times when they don't hear me because I'm not a hunter. They've never been shut out the process and that's a miss-representation.
Ted Simons: I think we have to stop it right there. Very good discussion. Thank you both for joining us.
Jerry Weiers & Stephanie Nichols-Young: Thank you.