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Friday, January 25, 2013

Environment - Rights to hunt, fish, engage in agriculture, and to engage in traditional and modern farming and ranching practices, to be enshrined in Indiana Constitution?

On Dec. 2, 2012 the ILB posted an entry headed "How the NRA is larding state constitutions with frivolous, redundant 'right to hunt' amendments," the headline referencing an article in Slate. I noted that:

Indiana's General Assembly adopted a "right to hunt" constitutional amendment in 2011. If it passes again this session (2013) or in 2014, the question of its ratification will appear on the 2014 ballot.

Here is the text of this proposal to amend Article 1 of our Constitution, the Indiana Bill of Rights:

ARTICLE 1 OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF INDIANA IS AMENDED BY ADDING A NEW SECTION TO READ AS FOLLOWS: Section 38. The people have a right to hunt, fish, harvest game, or engage in the agricultural or commercial production of meat, fish, poultry, or dairy products, which is a valued part of our heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good, subject only to laws prescribed by the General Assembly and rules prescribed by virtue of the authority of the General Assembly. Hunting and fishing shall be the preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. This section shall not be construed to limit the application of any provision of law relating to trespass or property rights.
The measure has been introduced again this year, as SJR 7.

New this year is a proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution's Bill of Rights that reads:

ARTICLE 1 OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF INDIANA IS AMENDED BY ADDING A NEW SECTION TO READ AS FOLLOWS: Section 40. The right of Indiana citizens to engage in traditional and modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in Indiana. No law shall be enacted that abridges the right of Indiana citizens to employ traditional or modern agricultural technology, animal production, or ranching practices.
It has been introduced in the Senate as SJR 21 and in the House as HJR 5.

Today a Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial opines:

Farming may fall somewhere near the ranks of apple pie and baseball in its importance to the American ethos, but ensuring all citizens have equal protection under the law should be far more important. Unfortunately, some state lawmakers want to enshrine special protections for farmers into the Indiana constitution.

House Joint Resolution 5 and Senate Joint Resolution 27 [sic], identical pieces of legislation making their way through the two chambers, seek to amend the Indiana Constitution to prevent any legislative body from adopting any rules regulating farming.

“It makes unconstitutional any law governing farming,” said Kim Ferraro, an attorney and director of water and agricultural policy for the Hoosier Environmental Council. “It seems to elevate one profession over all others for constitutional protections.”

The amendment, apparently, would prevent any rules regulating large industrial agricultural businesses such as confined animal feeding operations. It would also prevent any laws that protect public health and private property rights for Hoosiers who are not farmers. Even zoning laws could be challenged.

A resolution must be approved in two separately elected sessions and then win approval in a statewide referendum before the constitution is amended.

State legislators are also proposing a slew of bills that purport to promote the interests of agriculture and farming in Indiana, but as written would prohibit state and local governments from creating rules that protect communities from water pollution or other public health threats.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 25, 2013 09:49 AM
Posted to Environment | Indiana Law