LINCOLN — Nebraska voters will have a chance to decide this fall whether to turn hunting, fishing and trapping into constitutional rights.
State lawmakers voted 41-3 Tuesday to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot.
Legislative Resolution 40CA would make it a right "to hunt, to fish and to harvest wildlife, including by the use of traditional methods."
The measure also would make public hunting, fishing and harvesting of wildlife a "preferred means" of managing and controlling wildlife.
The proposal would allow the State Game and Parks Commission to continue regulating the activities as the agency does now. It also makes clear that the right to hunt, fish and trap would not trump private property rights or laws governing water use.
State Sen. Pete Pirsch of Omaha, who sponsored the proposal, said it was needed to counter threats from national animal rights groups. Such groups have helped ban the hunting of mountain lions in California and bears in New Jersey.
"I think it's an important thing that needs to be addressed to preserve and protect rights that we now take for granted," he said.
Sen. Brenda Council of Omaha argued that the amendment was unnecessary and didn't belong in the Nebraska Constitution. She said there was no testimony about any real threat to the traditional outdoor activities.
Council made a last-ditch stand against the amendment Tuesday but received little support for her proposed changes.
Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdredge said he expects sportsmen's groups and other backers to organize a campaign for passage of the measure this fall.
Despite concerns about animal rights groups, he said he does not expect any organized opposition.
Among other bills passed or advanced Tuesday:
Sunday alcohol sales: Cities and counties would have the option of allowing alcohol sales on Sunday mornings under Legislative Bill 861, passed 44-0. Current law bars all sales between 6 a.m. and noon, while leaving it up to cities and counties whether to permit alcohol sales between noon and 1 a.m.
Legislative salaries: A proposed legislative pay increase moved another step closer to the November ballot. Senators advanced Legislative Resolution 373CA to final reading. If approved by voters, the measure would boost legislative salaries to $22,500, up from the current $12,000 per year.
Flavored malt beverages: A bill to continue taxing flavored malt beverages, such as Mike's Hard Lemonade, as beers cleared second-round debate. Opponents of Legislative Bill 824 offered an amendment Tuesday that would set taxes for the beverages at a level between that of beer and liquor.
The drinks currently are taxed as beer, but the Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled they should be considered liquor under state law.
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