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Wednesday October 4, 2000

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Down with Proposition 102

Headline Photo

By Cory Spiller

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A conservative special interest group is attempting to pull a fast one on voters this season. It has been referred to as a wolf in sheep's clothing, and it most certainly is. Proposition 102 will take away the rights of the voters and the power of the majority by instituting a two-thirds requirement which undermine any active dissidence. Prop. 102's sly tactics are an insult to voters, and it will do nothing for the wildlife that it swears to protect.

Proponents of the initiative, such as the State Game and Fish department, argue that the proposal will help protect wildlife. Advertisements for it are covered in glorious pictures of Bald Eagles and Big Horn sheep, as if without this bill they will surely perish. Wrong, absolutely wrong. Instead of protecting the wildlife, Proposition 102 will do everything it can to keep people from protecting wildlife. The fact is, the people that are opposed to wildlife protection are those that back the bill, for example, those historically opposed to the banning of cruel leg-hold traps, will vote "yes" on 102.

Prop. 102 is simple. It requires a supermajority for decisions concerning wildlife management; that's it. Currently the state of Arizona must have a majority to pass proposals concerning wildlife, and we all know what a majority is, its 50 percent and one; it won't be any longer if proponents for Prop. 102 get their way. Ironically, Prop. 102 only needs a 50 percent majority to impose it's 66 percent standard. It is interesting to note that proponents of 102 don't hold themselves up to the same standards they wish to create.

Why, we must ask? Democracy is fairly simple, if the majority of people want something they should get it. Why should it be different with wildlife management? The reason is a minority of powerful voters and legislators are scared and annoyed. In 1992, Proposition 200 proposed restrictions on steel leg traps. It did not pass, however, in 1994 a reworded proposal was passed by voters by a 59 percent majority. If the supermajority rule had been in place in 1994, the steel trap restrictions initiative would have been turned down; even though it received a commanding 59 percent approval.

If the supermajority rule were accepted, democracy would in effect be reversed. Instead of a majority making decisions, a minority of 33 percent would have the ability to veto any proposals for wildlife protection. It's already difficult for citizens to advance wildlife protection, due to ballot restrictions. To revise any Arizona statutes, citizens must gather more than 110,000 valid signatures, and then voters must pass the measure with a majority vote. The fact remains that Arizona voters reject far more measures than they approve. Since statehood, Arizona citizens have advanced only two wildlife protection measures.

Arizona is a conservative state, and it votes conservatively on most every issue, particularly those concerning wildlife management. Proposition 102 would strip voters of their power, and hand it to the politically questionable hands of the state legislature and the unelected members of the state's Game and Fish Commission, whose five members are appointed by the governor. Arizona's conservative administration did not name a single biologist or environmentalist to the Commission. Instead, three of the Commissioners are members of the Safari Club International, who are dedicated to the hunting and killing of rare and endangered species worldwide.

Voters have the opportunity to decide whether or not they approve of medicinal marijuana use, and tax raises in the normal 50 percent majority rule, but opponents of Prop. 102 don't feel voters can decide matters concerning the humane treatment of animals. Voters only have one way of opposing the decisions of the legislation and the state gaming Commission, and that's ballot initiative. A supermajority requirement would make a successful ballot initiative nearly impossible; Prop. 102 will make 65 percent of the population's opinion worthless.

Prop. 102 has a long list of respectable opponents: the Arizona Humane Society, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Southwest Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Foundation. The Audubon Society believes that Prop. 102 is "masquerading as something that will help wildlife, when in fact it will do the exact opposite." The Audubon Society is right on; the state commission is trying to pull a quick one on the voters. Don't be fooled, it is a wolf under that coat of wool, and it will bite. Even if you are don't care about wildlife issues, vote to protect the democratic system, vote against the supermajority, vote "no" on Prop. 102.