A committee voted Tuesday to send an advisory referendum on Second Amendment rights to the Sauk County Board for final consideration, and rejected another on abortion laws.
If the proposal that passed the Executive and Legislative Committee is also approved by the full board, it will ask Sauk County voters on the November ballot if further restrictions should be placed on firearms.
The other asked whether state and federal laws should be amended to “recognize the rights of unborn persons” and restrict government funding to organizations that buy or sell fetal tissue.
The questions were crafted by supervisors who opposed other ballot questions on nonpartisan redistricting and campaign finance that the board recently approved. The officials oppose including state and national issues on county referendums, but contend that equal consideration should be given to all issues if they are.
“In what I’ve picked up in just these few short months is that we have modified the objective of these referendums,” said Supervisor Tim McCumber of Merrimac, who put forth the referendums on gun rights and abortion. “You game the system — you drive people to the polls with referendum questions that have absolutely no bearing on anything.”
McCumber also drafted a referendum on medical marijuana that was approved by the full board last month. His additional ballot questions drew pro-life and Second Amendment advocates to Tuesday’s meeting who encouraged the committee to approve the proposals.
Supervisor Bill Hambrecht of Prairie du Sac took issue with the strong, conservative wording of both referendums, which he said should be simple and nonpartisan. He suggested the abortion proposal exclude the reference to the sale of fetal tissue, and plainly ask whether or not abortion should be legal, and if tax dollars should finance it. He said the Second Amendment referendum should ask voters whether they agree with firearm restrictions.
“I think these resolutions came worded as they were is because I think conservative people are feeling that it’s only going to be liberal stuff that comes forward and none of our conservative issues, and that’s wrong,” Hambrecht said. “I think it’s important that conservative issues get out there to the public as well as liberal issues.”
Hambrecht’s amendment to the abortion referendum was rejected by the committee, and the original proposal was not reconsidered. The referendum on gun laws was amended to ask voters whether they agree with further firearm restrictions.
Committee members Hambrecht, Bill Wenzel of Prairie Du Sac and Wally Czuprynko of Lake Delton voted to send the proposal for consideration by the full board, while board Chair Peter Vedro of Baraboo voted against it. Supervisor Tom Kriegl of Baraboo abstained.
“I don’t believe the word ‘arms’ has been given enough definition to clarify,” Vedro said. “The issue boils down to whether citizens need to have access to weapons of war. Until that issue is resolved, I cannot stand to support the wording unless it contains very specific guidelines of what the word ‘arms’ means.”
The committee also put forward a proposal to put limits on how many advisory referendums can be placed on the ballot. If approved, the resolution will place a three-question limit for each election starting with the spring 2019 election, which must be approved 130 days before the vote.