On Thursday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers decided the fates of two ballot initiatives that had their petitions submitted at the end of May.
The Board unanimously approved the initiative from Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management that would allow the wolf hunt to continue along with funding measures to combat Asian Carp and continue offering free hunting and fishing licenses to active-duty members of the armed services.
They also denied the initiative from Raise Michigan to put a measure on the ballot that would allow voters to vote for an increase in the state's minimum wage to $10.10 per hour on a 3-1 bipartisan vote, citing not enough valid signatures.
One of two fates await the wolf-hunt measure, which its proponents call the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. It could be passed into law by the state legislature within 40 days of its approval by the Board of State Canvassers or it could be placed on the November ballot for approval by the voters.
The state legislature is currently on summer recess, but the state house is scheduled to meet on July 30, August 13, and August 27. MLive reported Thursday afternoon that Merle Shepard, chair of Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management and Michigan Chapter Head of Safari Club International, expected lawmakers to act on August 13, enacting the measure directly into law and bypassing the voters.
Shepard told MLive, "We've been working with them and trying to get them up to speed on the issue. "We think we have the support there, and we're going to continue pushing until it happens."
Should the initiative be approved by the legislature, both of the previously approved proposals to stop the wolf hunt would be rendered moot.
Keep Michigan's Wolves Protected, which submitted both of the anti-hunting initiatives, issued this statement on its Facebook page late Thursday. "Last spring, the NRC [Natural Resources Commission] ignored science and caved to political pressure, but legislators have no excuse to make that mistake again. Approving the absurdly-misnamed 'Scientific Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act' would once again cut the voters out of the process and will be a slap in the face to fair elections and democratic decision making."
In the day's other decision, both the Detroit Free Press and MLive reported that the Board of State Canvassers turned down Raise Michigan's proposal to increase the minimum wage by a vote of both of the panel's Republicans and one of its two Democrats. The Board based its decision on a challenge by People Protecting Michigan Jobs, a group opposing the measure, that was submitted after the July 11 deadline for challenges.
As a result, the number of valid signatures fell from the 259,766 the Secretary of State found out of the 319,784 reported by Raise Michigan to 3,900 short of the 258,088 required.
Like Keep Michigan's Wolves Protected, Raise Michigan responded to the decision by posting a statement to their Facebook page invoking the will of the people.
“This is yet another example of people in power changing the rules in the middle of the game to meet their agenda and silence the voice of voters. It happened when the legislature tried to undercut our ballot drive and it happened again today,” said Frank Houston, a member of the Raise Michigan Coalition. “The fix was in and it’s disappointing. The Board set aside the time-tested, non-partisan process that the Secretary of State has used for petitions like this before and came up with their own rules on the fly. We will continue to review our legal options and make a decision regarding our next steps.”
Despite the failure of the ballot initiative, the minimum wage will still be raised to $9.25 per hour by 2018, a rate that would then be indexed to inflation. In the process, the state legislature repealed the law that Raise Michigan was seeking to amend. Even if the measure had been placed on the ballot, the legislature's action would have likely rendered the initiative moot.