Senate Republicans continue to tamper with elections, hijack democratic process to push wolf hunting initiative

Lansing – Michigan Senate Democrats attacked Senate Republicans’ passage of legislation today to prevent voters from having a say on wolf hunting this November. Exploiting the same legislative loophole they used to force through the “rape insurance” requirement, Republicans intentionally used a citizens’ initiative signed by a mere 3% of the population to derail the democratic process and push their preferred outcome.

“First Senate Republicans lied to enact the wolf hunting issue in the first place, and now they’re cheating to uphold it,” said Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing). “From emergency managers to rape insurance, the ongoing Republican theme of disenfranchising Michigan voters and meddling in elections to rig the outcomes is disgusting. Regardless of where you stand on wolf hunting, Republicans really took a shot at voting rights today.”

The citizens’ initiative passed today to uphold wolf hunting in Michigan was pushed by a group called Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, who turned in around 300,000 valid signatures in support of the initiative. As with the Republicans’ controversial rape insurance law that circumvented Michigan voters in a similar fashion last year, the Republican-led Senate could have sent the initiative to the state ballot instead of taking it upon themselves to pass it. The move doubly hijacks the democratic process, not only preventing Michigan voters from weighing in on the pro-wolf hunting proposal, but intentionally overriding two other public referendums on the November ballot to repeal wolf hunting in Michigan.

“With all of the pressing issues currently facing our state—flooding in Detroit, a water shortage in Bay City, crumbling roads, and rampant abuse of taxpayer dollars in our charter schools and state departments—it’s absolutely insulting that this is what Senate Republicans want to work on during their second session day in as many months,” said Senator Coleman A. Young II (D-Detroit). “How arrogant and out of touch can the Senate Republicans get? Instead of working to address the real and pressing needs of the millions of citizens we serve across the state, they want to pander to 3% of our population, one special interest group and one State Senator.”

Senator Tom Casperson of the 38th District in the Upper Peninsula has been the leading proponent of wolf hunting in Michigan, in many cases disregarding the truth and the democratic process to push his agenda. Casperson sponsored a Senate resolution that passed in May 2011 urging Congress to remove gray wolves in Michigan from the federal endangered species list that included a highly exaggerated and publicly debunked story about wolves posing a threat to a daycare center. Casperson apologized for the fictional wolf story and apologized for the deception, saying “I am accountable and I am sorry.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed gray wolves in Michigan from the federal endangered species list a few months later, and Casperson introduced Senate Bill 1350 to allow wolf hunting in Michigan, which Governor Snyder signed into law as Public Act 520. In March 2013, a group called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected and backed by the Humane Society submitted signatures for a statewide referendum to overturn wolf hunting. Casperson then cagily introduced Senate Bill 288 that would allow wolf hunting even if PA 520 was suspended or repealed, essentially rendering the public referendum moot. Keep Michigan Wolves Protected countered by launching another initiative to overturn wolf hunting, which led to Casperson pushing his fellow Senate Republicans to enact the citizens’ initiative today.