Constitutions are sometimes just symbolic: North Korea has one. But to be a Constitutional Republic in which the Constitution is the highest law of the land, We the People must be vigilant against the types of government abuses of power our state and federal constitutions were created to prevent. Now is the time to stand up in Vermont, as some legislators are acting much more like Kim Jong Un than elected representatives. King among them is Sen. Dick McCormack, aka “King Dick.”
A number of anti-hunting bills are being slammed through Vermont’s legislative process in blatant violation of basic constitutional guarantees. Sen. McCormack disgraces his Vermont Law School degree by consistently displaying an unethical disregard for basic constitutional protections. Fortunately for citizens, Vermont is not (yet) a monarchy.
One of the bills at issue (S.281) concerns banning the use of hounds in coyote hunting. I have never shot a coyote, though I’ve suffered when they have taken my sheep. Yes, I understand they are not acting with malice and just need to eat, but that is not the case with Dick McCormack and his pack of Vermonter-hating coyote weaponizers.
Coyote populations, like bears, fisher cats, deer, rabbits, and other wildlife, fluctuate in numbers, sometimes widely, causing myriad harms. This is why Vermont has scientific experts called “wildlife biologists” who spend decades at public expense understanding complex ecosystems and advising legislators and agencies what practices to employ.
The Constitution requires that all laws enacted serve a legitimate government interest that at a minimum must be “rationally related” to any new restriction. If a law violates a “fundamental right,” it must pass a “strict scrutiny” test which few statutes can survive. S.281 survives neither standard. It is being pushed through without regard to facts, law, or procedural safeguards.
In a message to a constituent, here is what King Dick wrote about this committee vote:
The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee has taken testimony from the full range of opinions on coyote hunting. In all issues, after hearing the testimony, I may agree or disagree with what I hear. But my oath of office requires my own best judgment without fear or favor of anyone. If I disagree with the public I stand in their judgment. In this case, the substantial majority of citizens from whom I’ve heard have urged us to outlaw coyote hunting. I don’t think there’s disagreement on the facts and the science on the question. Rather it is a question of ethics and values, cruelty, fair hunt, and property rights.
But this is not how a constitutional government functions, as any decently-trained attorney knows. Dicktator McCormack is aided and abetted by co-sponors to sneakily impose a personal “ethical” value set upon others while bypassing science and law. These sponsors bear the constitutional burden of justifying the governmental purpose and powers under which they seek to curtail existing liberties in Vermont. S.281 states: “Statement of purpose of bill as introduced: This bill proposes to prohibit the pursuit of coyote with the aid of dogs, either for the training of dogs or for the taking of coyote.”
There is no constitutional basis offered. Is it public health and safety? Universal privacy rights of coyotes? Is it cruelty to animals? The “bill” merely states its partisan, predetermined, Dicktatorial goal. This is an abuse of process on numerous levels.
By comparison, imagine if a statute were introduced proposing to ban the consumption of honey because a spirited minority of Dick McCormick’s constituents embraced the “ethics” of PETA regarding the treatment of bees:
It’s not unusual for larger honey producers to cut off the queen bee’s wings so that she can’t leave the colony or to have her artificially inseminated on a bee-sized version of the factory farm “rape rack.” When the keeper wants to move a queen to a new colony, she is carried with “bodyguard” bees, all of whom—if they survive transport—will be killed by bees in the new colony. Bees may be killed or have their wings and legs torn off by haphazard handling.
Sen. McCormack claims this concerns “property rights,” alluding to the fallacy that hunting dogs infringe on the property rights of private landowners. But there are clear, longstanding laws about this — will Dick et al. ban public parks and people walking in the woods because a minority of hikers trespass or litter? One of the “property rights” at issue is hunting on state-owned lands, specifically recognized in Vermont’s Constitution. Per its website, “The Fish & Wildlife Department currently owns 100 Wildlife Management Areas totaling close to 130,000 acres throughout Vermont.” How much of that acreage was donated or transferred under specific easements protecting traditional hunting privileges? Senator McCormack must explain.
This senator’s oath of office requires him not “to follow my own best judgment” but to respect the constitutional process and laws he is openly subverting. He is also whisking away the property rights of Vermonters who hunt, ignoring the taking clause while claiming he is shielding non-existent property rights — what value are hunting dogs with which one cannot hunt? What property owner has suffered litigable damage from these traditions, and how are existing laws deficient to protect those rights? Dick can’t answer these questions; instead, he just avoids them.
I don’t care if Vermont bans coyote hunting with dogs so long as the constitution is obeyed and our wildlife professionals are involved. But the process witnessed here is being applied to bills to prohibit existing foothold-trapping, and to reorder the oversight of hunting so that wildlife professionals and public opinion are both merely “advisory” — Dick and his crew are taking over all hunting regulation, and this unconstitutional process will be leveled at bear, coon, and beagle hunting in due unconstitutional course.
If McCormack and clan may impose these restrictions without presenting a legitimate purpose, while bypassing facts in favor of their “own best judgment,” then honey may be banned if Dick decides honey bees are being raped. (It is to be noted that humanity depends on bees; that bees are dying off; that commercial honey replaces lost wild colonies; that honey producers fund the vast majority of research into sudden colony die-off syndrome; and make their money selling honey.) Vermont is blessed with specialized wildlife experts who can best determine — under the constitutional powers to regulate wildlife management already properly provided to them — what is the best management of coyotes and other hunting practices. Will McCormack similarly avoid the Department of Health on vaccines, or the Department of Motor Vehicles on registrations, by passing officials and unilaterally imposing his pre-set plan?
Isaac Asimov warned us about people like Dick McCormack:
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
Sen. McCormack reminds us that people with law degrees can be extremely ignorant, or worse, abuse their privilege to achieve personal goals. Dick’s moronic, uninformed opinion about hunting is equal in its ugly stupidity to his opinions about law — he has just said his job is to go with mob rule, not obey constitutional law. Dick’s “opinion” on his job duties reflects that cult of ignorance to which Asimov referred. Dick thinks his opinion has greater value than both wildlife experts and the constitution itself. He is publicly boasting about violating his oath of office! He speaks against 60,000 Vermont hunters based on a minuscule slice of moralizing zealots (he admitted that too). This is why we have constitutions — to evade despots. So grotesquely have King Dick and the new tyrants removed constitutional safeguards we might as well skip committee hearings or even law-passing in future — just have King Dick issue his next royal decree over his inferior subjects, based entirely on his personal ethics.
I am an attorney who has written about the gross unconstitutionality of these hunting bills. I was scheduled to testify before Dick’s committee but I was canceled and told specifically that I would be afforded an opportunity to testify at later hearings. Then S.281 was fast-tracked, and King Dick claimed on Feb. 25 that he is going to ram all of these bills through committee asap because he has already decided what he and his cohorts deem “their own best judgment.” This is preposterous. No wonder the Legislature is also moving quickly to pass a law criminalizing citizen complaints against school boards and legislators. I may end up in Dick’s dungeon for this piece once that unconstitutional folly is enacted.
Vermonters have a clear opportunity in Dick McCormack to hold one of its more off-the-constitutional-reservation carpetbaggers accountable to the foundational documents of this state and nation. King Dick must be told that he is no monarch, and must lay down his Putinesque scepter. The hunter-haters must participate in the legal process equally with other citizens, present their evidence, and let a fair process employing constitutional precepts rule the day. If they can’t do that in kingly committees, they will be bound to it in a court of law, where facts and law still apply, and due process is still guaranteed.
Coyotes shredded my young sheep more than once, but they can’t be faulted because they lack the capacity of criminal intent. This rapacious attack by McCormack and the rabid crew of so-called wildlife protectors makes coyotes look quite civilized, and enrages me far more than losing lambs for food to wildlife. There is nothing in the universe more evil than the human, which is why mobs of hate-humans get restrained by reason, facts and law — these hellhounds must be locked in constitutional crates, to protect the public from further vicious attacks.