- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2000

Virginians yesterday said yes to two constitutional amendments one securing the right to hunt and fish, and another giving lottery proceeds to schools.

In neighboring Maryland, Montgomery County voted unequivocally to throw out term limits, even as Prince George's County favored retaining them.

As unofficial results came in last night, 60 percent of Virginia voters from more than 95 percent (2,146) of the state's 2,265 precincts voted in favor of the amendment that would guarantee them the right to hunt, fish and trap game.

In 95 percent (2,148) of the 2,265 precincts in the state, 83 percent voted in favor of another amendment that will give all lottery proceeds to schools.

In Maryland, residents of the neighboring counties of Montgomery and Prince George's went opposite ways on the much-debated issue of term limits, with Montgomery voting against term limits, and Prince George's voting to keep them.

In Prince George's County, in 66 percent (132) of the 199 precincts, 66 percent voted against repealing term limits for the County Executive's Office.

For the council, in 67 percent (133) of the 199 precincts, 64 percent voted against repealing term limits for council members.

Montgomery County's returns on 48 percent (110) of 227 precincts showed 56 percent voting against imposing term limits in the county.

At present, the constitution of Virginia does not have any provision on the right to hunt, fish or trap game. The commonwealth has the power to regulate fishing and hunting in the public's interest, which it exercises through provisions for hunting, fishing permits, licenses and limits on the times and seasons for hunting and fishing.

If voters officially approve of the amendment, the state constitution would say: "The people have a right to hunt, fish and harvest game, subject to such regulations and restrictions as the General Assembly may prescribe by general law."

The amendment was bitterly opposed by animal rights activists and Democrats in the state. Their efforts to stop a vote count on the referendum failed in late October when a judge turned down the request.

The Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of America, contending the measure was a "trivialization of the Constitution of Virginia," argued that the ballot question failed to adequately explain the issue to voters.

The ballot question asks: "Shall the Constitution of Virginia be amended by adding a provision concerning the right of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game?"

Amendment supporters include the National Rifle Association and John Paul Woodley Jr., the state's secretary of natural resources, who says the amendment is about protecting the rights of hunters and trappers.

The amendment was passed in the state Senate earlier this year after several unsuccessful attempts to amend it.

In Maryland, Montgomery County this year introduced a ballot question seeking to impose term limits, while Prince George's introduced a question to overturn such limits.

Term limits became law in Prince George's County in 1992 when a measure put before county voters passed by 51 percent to 49 percent.

Council members and the county executive are now limited to two four-year terms in the county. If term limits are abolished in the county, County Executive Wayne K. Curry and seven of the nine council members can run for re-election again in 2002.

As voters appeared to favor retaining term limits last night, Delegate Rushern L. Baker III, who led an effort to repeal term limits in Prince George's county, said: "We're not thrilled. I am glad we got the issue out before voters to give them a chance to decide if it is a good policy."

But in Bowie, which has problems with the county executive and council, a change in term limits was secondary to voters who said yesterday they came to the polls first as a civic duty, and mainly to vote for a new president.

Ruth Woodward, of the 1100 block of Gradys Court, at first said the presidential election was most important for the sake of "schools and education," but when asked about the term-limit issue, she said, "In fact that is probably the most important."

"People should be given a chance to be re-elected," said Jennifer Ingle, 25, of the 1000 block of Malin Lane.

But that vote apparently was contrary to many voters in Bowie, where community activists have complained about school policies, plans for a trash transfer station and few returns for their tax dollars from county government.

Some activists are even pushing to secede from Prince George's.

"That's not realistic," said John Cooper, 63, of Midwood Lane, stomping on the ground beside Bowie High School. "This is county property," he said, but added, "Mr. Curry is not in big favor here."

In Montgomery County, a ballot initiative would limit the county executive and members of the county council to two consecutive four-year terms in office.

If the amendment passes, term limits will be introduced in the county for the first time. Former state Delegate Robin Ficker was the driving force behind the term-limits campaign, gathering 14,000 signatures far more than the 10,000 necessary to place an item on the ballot. Mr. Ficker lost the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in March.

Last evening, as county residents appeared to be voting to defeat the measure to impose term limits, Mr. Ficker said that he doesn't "expect the vote to change more than 1 percent when all votes are counted."

However, he added he would "never give up" his quest to seek term limits.

Opponents of term limits in the county, including U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella, a seven-term Republican who represents most of Montgomery County, formed a group called Citizens for Voter Choice to beat the initiative.

By early afternoon yesterday, a majority of voters in Montgomery County appeared to be firmly against term limits.

"Each time we vote, we impose term limits. When we are not happy, we put people out of office," said Ronnalee Netteburg of Silver Spring. "We do not need separate term limits."

Dolly Bennof, also of Silver Spring, voted against term limits.

"A couple of years into the job, the officials get to know it better. There's no point in voting them out after two terms," she said.

In Prince George's County, 63 percent of the voters in 83 percent (1,391) of 1,666 precincts decided against a constitutional amendment authorizing the Prince George's County Council to take property immediately upon finding a need for redevelopment purposes.

Virginians appeared to favor a constitutional amendment dedicating all lottery profits to schools.

The amendment would require the General Assembly to establish a Lottery Proceeds Fund where the net revenues from any state-run lottery would be placed. Lottery proceeds would be distributed to counties, cities and towns, and their school divisions, to be spent locally for public education.

State school board officials said late last night that they were very pleased with the overwhelming support to the amendment.

"In an era when we have high standards and accountability," there was a need for more funds, said Kirk T. Schroder, chairman of the Virginia Board of Education. "I am very pleased that citizens are giving lottery funds to public education this was a promise made earlier that will now be kept."

In recent years, annual sales of lottery tickets have ranged from $900 million to $973 million. After prize payments and administrative costs, the turnover to Virginia in 2000 was $323.5 million.

So far, the state has used lottery proceeds in different ways. In 1999, they were distributed to local public school divisions for educational purposes.

In Arlington County, a special election is being held for the sheriff's position after Thomas N. Faust resigned in July. The race is between Democratic candidate Elizabeth F. Arthur, appointed as his successor in July, and independent candidates John E. Baber and Elmer L.H. Lowe.

With 42 out of 43 precincts reporting results by 11:30 p.m. yesterday, Ms. Arthur was leading in the polls with 41,887 votes, followed by Mr. Baber with 23,261 and Mr. Lowe with 6,472.

In Fairfax City, residents voted on a nonbinding resolution on whether or not to raise taxes to expand the city's shrinking parkland.

City officials say that Fairfax City has proportionately less park space than other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. If the idea of a tax increase gets overwhelming support, the city council plans to discuss it during budget hearings for fiscal 2002. It is estimated that a 5-cent tax rise would produce a million dollars a year. The money would be set aside to purchase parkland and land for ball fields.

• Arlo Wagner, Margie Hyslop and Barbara Burnham contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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