Saturday, August 30, 2014

Letter from State Rep. Jeff Irwin: Legislature removes wildlife decisions from voters' hands

[Editor's Note: State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), of House District 53, was one of 43 state representatives who voted against the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act on Aug. 27. He spoke eloquently on the Floor of the House preceding the vote.* (See link below to video of his speech.) He also sent the following letter to his constituents and others who asked him to vote against this Act, a petition initiative which intends to deprive Michigan voters of their right to decide the wolf hunt issue by voting on two November ballot proposals.**]

Letter from Rep. Jeff Irwin
Aug. 27, 2014
Reprinted with permission

Thank you for writing to ask me to vote against the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which will institute a wolf hunt and take decisions relating to game species out of the hands of voters. Today, I voted against this initiated law in the House, and I spoke passionately in opposition on the floor. Unfortunately, however, this initiated law has now passed both houses of the Legislature, and it does not require the governor’s signature.

This effort was designed to nullify a pair of citizen initiatives that would have prevented the hunting of wolves for sport. Wolf hunting was authorized last year, after the Legislature blocked a previous initiative effort to ban the hunt. Because the pro-hunting measure passed today, citizens will see ballot questions on wolf hunting in November, but their votes on the questions will have no effect. Wolf hunting will be allowed, and the law cannot be repealed by another initiative, because it contains a small appropriation of funds.

Regardless of one’s opinion of whether wolves should be hunted in Michigan, the passage of this measure raises serious concerns about the integrity of the democratic process in Michigan. It is only the most recent in a string of actions by the Legislature to thwart citizens who are exercising their rights under the Michigan Constitution to bring measures to the ballot.

I support two measures that would help bring the practices of the Michigan Legislature back in line with the spirit of our state constitution. House Joint Resolution Q would put an end to the use of token appropriations to immunize unpopular bills from citizen referendum. Senate Joint Resolution X would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature in order to pass a bill that is the same or similar to a law rejected by referendum.

I will continue to work on behalf of my constituents’ rights to participate in the democratic process. Thank you again for your advocacy on this issue.


Jeff Irwin***

Editor's Notes:

* Click here to see the video of Rep. Irwin's speech against the initiative denying citizens the wolf hunt vote.

** The Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act passed with 65 votes in favor, including YES votes by two of our local Upper Peninsula Representatives, District 110 Rep. Scott Dianda and and District 109 Rep. John Kivela -- both Democrats.

*** Rep. Irwin's official statement on why he voted Nay on this initiative, as well as statements by Representatives Lamonte, Schor, Howrylak, and Zemke -- explaining their nay votes -- appear in the official No. 62 State of Michigan Journal of the House of Representatives, 97th Legislature, Regular Session of 2014, for Aug. 27, 2014. (See pp. 1638-1640)

You can learn more about Rep. Jeff Irwin or comment on his letter or the two measures he supports for citizens' rights to participate in the democratic process by visiting his Web site.

Inset photo: Rep. Jeff Irwin. (Photo courtesy Jeff Irwin. Reprinted with permission.)

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