Amendments still need

Brian Close

Lottery funding, a statement on hunting and the future of the state treasurer’s office make up three potential amendments to the Minnesota Constitution, which will appear on the election ballot Tuesday.
Each amendment has passed in both the state House of Representatives and the Senate, and must now be approved by more than half of the voting public.
The first amendment would extend the use of Minnesota State Lottery funds for the Environmental Trust Fund until the year 2025.
Currently, seven cents of every dollar spent on lottery tickets goes to the fund. The money supports projects like watershed restoration, fish and wildlife habitats, improved parks and trails, and environmental education.
In addition, the amendment would update some of the language in the law, reducing the need to generate short-term income while maximizing the long-term return.
Critics say money should remain in a more general revenue pool, in case the state’s needs change. If the money is designated for the fund, it would not be available.
The second amendment would read as follows: “Hunting and fishing and the taking of game and fish are a valued part of our heritage that shall be forever preserved for the people and shall be managed by law and regulation for the public good.”
Joanne Murphy, spokeswoman for the Animal Rights Coalition, said the amendment is “frivolous and unnecessary.”
“We don’t have a constitutional amendment that guarantees education, health care or other human needs,” she said. “Why should we have one that preserves a hobby?”
The amendment’s proponents wanted to define hunting and fishing as a “right,” but that wording was changed in the Legislature. Critics are concerned that the wording is vague and will lead to confusion if the amendment is brought to court.
But supporters of the amendment say the change is necessary to preempt restrictions on hunting and fishing activities.
Fred Morrison, a University law professor, helped draft the amendment for several hunting and fishing groups. He said the amendment’s purpose is to state the policy that hunting and fishing are permitted activities, adding that it will probably never be brought to court.
“It gives guidance to the Legislature as to the kinds of restrictions that the Legislature can oppose,” he said. “Clearly, the Legislature can provide for conservation, safety and sportsmanship.”
The third amendment, if passed, would abolish the Office of the State Treasurer in the year 2003.
Morrison said the Commissioner of Finance has performed the office’s duties for years.
Although the amendment doesn’t specify who would take over specific duties, Morrison said that would be worked out over time.
“The position would remain for the next four years, so the Legislature would have a chance to decide where everything goes,” he said.
Passage of any of the three amendments would require a majority of voters to cast a “yes” vote at the polls.
Therefore, anybody who votes, but fails to check either box for the amendments, is essentially casting a “no” vote.