Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Ridiculous proposal

Though it is wordy, clumsy and often outmoded, the Arkansas Constitution is usually better left untouched than modified by the legislature or interest groups that have an axe to grind. It is seldom amended in ways that protect the natural rights or expand the opportunities of citizens of the Natural State. That is a prediction for the current legislative session, which will place three amendments on the 2010 ballot.

As things stood Tuesday, the legislature was apt to ask voters to give private interests another opportunity to get a fork into the state treasury and to lift the ceiling on what lenders may charge borrowers for credit. Those were still questionable, but the lawmakers had no hesitation in putting one perfectly ridiculous proposal on the ballot. Amendment 1 of 2010 will guarantee the right to hunt, fish and trap in Arkansas.

You didn’t know that those are illegal activities now? Well, they are legal and there is no effort to ban them. The author, Sen. Steve Faris of Malvern, said he had read about a dispute in Minnesota and Michigan over whether mourning doves were songbirds rather than game birds and should not be hunted. He thought somebody someday might want to stop hunting, fishing or trapping a fish, fowl or mammal in Arkansas and he had better head it off. Thus, a constitutional amendment.

As constitutional law, it would be meaningless. The state Game and Fish Commission could override any particular law. If a group ever wanted to ban the hunting of mourning doves in Arkansas, they could get up a constitutional amendment to ban it and persuade the public of its benefits, the same as they would have to do without the constitutional amendment.

But what is the harm in having meaningless verbiage in the Constitution if it makes somebody feel good since the Constitution is full of such stuff now — a ban on dueling and on feudal tenures, authority to create volunteer cavalries and artillery companies, a ban on atheists holding office or testifying (and protection for atheists to hold office and testify) and pages of tedium that have nothing to do with the fundamental rights of people who live here. That is the point. It trivializes and disrespects the fundamental law. We just wish they wouldn’t do it.