AUGUSTA — A state legislative resolve that would lead to a statewide ballot question asking voters to amend the Maine Constitution to prohibit citizen initiatives on hunting and fishing regulation fell short of the two-thirds vote it needed for passage.
The measure, which would ask voters to approve a constitutional change that would leave fish and game regulation to the Legislature, gained majority support in the state Senate. But the 20-15 vote was four votes short of the two-thirds margin it needed to be sent to voters as required by the state constitution.
Lawmakers supporting the measure said special-interest groups from outside Maine were working to limit hunting rights and were willing to pour millions of dollars into citizen-backed referendums.
"I can't imagine somebody trying to come here in the state of Maine and take that heritage away from me or my grandchildren or your grandchildren, even if they don't choose to hunt or fish," said Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting. "If we don't take the appropriate precautions, we are in danger of losing that heritage."
But lawmakers opposed to the resolve said they did not support picking and choosing which laws citizens could affect with ballot initiatives.
Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, said while those in favor of the measure intended it to protect bear hunting in Maine, which has been targeted before by animal rights groups, that wasn't the aim of the measure.
"It limits the citizen initiative here in the state of Maine and we have allowed the citizen initiative process and it is my opinion that that should not be restricted for any one group, whether I agree with group or don't agree with that group," Haskell said.
The fear that well-funded outside groups would advocate for change in Maine and succeed was a fair issue to raise, Haskell said.
"And if you want to look at multimillion-dollar lobbying groups in this chamber, you don't have to go very far around the room to see more than one," Haskell said.