Dove Bill Stirs Passions
Published February 17, 2004.
By Hugh McDiarmid Jr. Detroit Free Press.
A mourning dove in flight is erratic. Sudden changes of direction. Confusing dips and turns. Ditto for a proposed law to hunt the birds.
That legislation, at the epicenter of an angst-ridden Senate hearing today, is a springboard for threats, protests, political sleight of hand and exhaustive lobbying efforts the likes of which haven't been seen since, well, the last time it was proposed.
"I've been around here 20 years and this is like the eighth time I've fought it," said Eileen Liska, lobbyist for the Michigan Humane Society. "It's always the same. Wild."
So when the Senate Judiciary Committee (why is a hunting bill in the Judiciary Committee? Stay tuned) convenes at noon today, it will be against a backdrop of lobbying chaos and an undercurrent of "animal rights extremists" versus "gun-loving nuts" that has colored every dove hunting debate for the past several decades.
If the committee passes the measure, it could go to the full Senate as early as Wednesday.
The House, which approved the bill in November, would need to OK changes made in the Senate version before sending it to Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Granholm is staying safely in her political bomb shelter unless she's dragged out. "When, and if, it reaches her desk, we will decide whether to sign it," her spokeswoman, Liz Boyd, said Monday.
Bill Ballenger, editor of Inside Michigan Politics, said Granholm, like the legislators, sees the issue as a hot potato. "They don't want to be in the cross fire between hunters and grandmas in tennis shoes who want to save the doves," he said.
Meanwhile, the legislation and the sideshows it brings have enlivened and enraged Lansing. Let us count the ways:
· A wooden 2-by-4
arrived in the office of Rep. Susan Tabor, R-Delta Township,
inscribed with a suggestion it be used to beat her because of
her sponsorship of the bill.
Nowling said he expects that the $350,000 appropriation will be removed from the bill today, and perhaps replaced with a fee on dove licenses to fund the program. But changes won't temper hot tempers. Doves have been exempt from hunting in Michigan since they were listed as a protected species by the state in 1905.
But 39 other states allow dove hunting. Hunters in Michigan say they're plentiful and the arguments against killing them are sentimental, not scientific.
Opponents say it's ridiculous to hunt the critters for the few chunks of meat they might provide, and polls show a majority of Michiganders want the bird protected.
- Songbird Protection Coalition