Election 2018: Proposed amendments address hunting and fishing, income tax cap

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A proposed amendment to the state constitution to protect the right to hunt and fish is the first of six on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The ballot question says: “Constitutional amendments protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife.”

The amendment would add a section to Article 1 of the North Carolina Constitution stating: “The right of the people to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife is a valued part of the state’s heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good. The people have a right, including the right to use traditional methods, to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife, subject only to laws enacted by the General Assembly and rules adopted pursuant to authority granted by the General Assembly to (i) promote wildlife conservation and management and (ii) preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. Nothing herein shall be construed to modify any provision of law relating to trespass, property rights or eminent domain.” 

Critics say the “right to use traditional methods” is unclear and it is unknown what effect the amendment would have on local laws on public safety or commercial hunting and fishing. If the amendment is approved, public hunting and fishing could be identified as a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife, critics say.

Critics also say the amendment is listed first to distract from the remaining five amendments.

They say it could be used to challenge restrictions on guns in public parks and schools.

Joe Fowler, a former wildlife officer and the Democratic candidate for state House in District 76, said he is against the amendment, calling it “a backdoor way to your pocketbook.” Fowler said it could mean that some of the money the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission receives from lifetime licenses could be given to other groups.

Harry Warren, the Republican candidate in District 76, said supports the proposed amendment, calling it one of the least controversial proposals and saying it would make changing hunting and fishing laws more difficult.

“It would take more effort to remove that or restrict it,” Warren said, adding other states have similar constitutional amendments.

The National Rifle Association has supported the proposed amendment.

Income tax cap

A third proposed amendment on the ballot would cap the maximum state income tax at 7 percent. 

Currently, the maximum personal and corporate income tax rate is 10 percent. The amendment would not reduce the current tax rate, including the individual rate of 5.499 percent and the corporate rate of 3 percent.

Warren said he supports the amendment, saying Democrats dropped the cap in the 1920s. He said the proposed amendment is getting a lot more attention than it deserves. 

The North Carolina Justice Center has denounced the proposed amendment. In a report, it said “limits in state income tax rates will not guarantee taxes remain low. Instead, it will mean the tax load on middle- and low-income taxpayers would increase as fewer dollars are available to invest in public schools and aid local governments in meeting their responsibilities.”

The income tax amendment is proposed “at a time when lawmakers have persistently cut taxes for the wealthy and profitable corporations such that the state has fewer dollars to meet existing needs in classrooms and communities,” the Justice Center says.