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Cockfighting bill fails after fighting off stiffer penalties

By Jeff Packham, Staff Writer

04-16-2003

(GIT) One of the two cockfighting measures suffered a setback Wednesday after the Senate defeated the measure when a compromise could not be reached on penalties.

HB 1784, by Rep. Randall Erwin, D-Nashoba, and Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, would call for a vote of the people to lower the penalty of participating in cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor and provide to fine of no more than $500.

The measure had been raised on Monday, but was withdrawn when a motion to table an amendment stiffening the penalties failed. The amendment had been proposed by Sen. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, and would have set the fine at $2,000 for first-time offenders and set subsequent violations as felony violations.

The amendment was raised again, but Shurden debated that no Oklahoman should have to spend one day in prison for committing a "chicken crime" that was not theft. He added that the current language inthe amendment would allow for a fine of $500 for each owned chicken.

Sen. Mark Snyder, R-Edmond, said the amendment made the bill better for the state of Oklahoma as he pointed out that cockfighting hinged on animal cruelty.

Sen. Mike Fair, R-Oklahoma City, said the measure in its current form made a "farce" of the initiative petition process. Fair said he did not want to see a person get arrested for owning a chicken, but the people had already made that determination. The amendment failed 22-23.

Sen. Bernest Cain, D-Oklahoma City, asked for an amendment that would be a compromise as it would lower the initial fine to $500 but would make subsequent violations a felony. Shurden requested that the bill be advanced and the motion passed 28-18.

Cain attempted to bring the bill back to third reading but Shurden pressed his motion to move on with the bill. Cain withdrew his motion, and Sen. Penny Williams, D-Tulsa, asked Shurden why he was unwilling to compromise. Shurden said he wanted to let the people decide if it would be a felony or a misdemeanor.

Cain said he was hesitant to vote against the desires of the people. He said he would support the measure, however, if all subsequent violations were a felony.

"I'm not ready to fill up the prisons," Cain said, "but I don't think it'll take many times."

Sen. James A. Williamson, R-Tulsa, said the people clearly wanted to put an end to cockfighting. He said Shurden was attempting to keep the practice alive. Williamson suggested a vote for the bill was a vote to allow cockfighting.

"Don't pretend like you're doing anything else," Williamson said.

Sen. Charles Ford, R-Tulsa, compared the cockfighting issue to the abortion issue as he said sarcastically that the chickens were only hurting themselves. Ford said he was surprised that it was a misdemeanor for chickens to be killed but there was no penalty whatsoever for the killing of unborn babies.

"We turn our head on that," Ford said.

Snyder said the state needed to stop chicken fighting, which would not be accomplished with this measure. Fair argued that the Legislature had an image of being "clowns," and the cockfighting issue had made that appear to be correct despite his own knowledge that it was incorrect.

Shurden said he was only interested in allowing the people to vote on penalties. He said if they wanted to pass it, they would and otherwise the penalties would stay the same. The bill failed 23-24.

HB 1269, by Rep. John Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow, and Sen. Scott Pruitt, R-Broken Arrow, would provide the recovery of rent or damages to mobile home parks or manufactured housing be handled on a small claims docket. The bill passed 39-3.

FS for HB 1313, by Rep. William R. Paulk, D-Oklahoma City, and Sen. Dick Wilkerson, D-Atwood, is a shell bill relating to homeland security. The measure would provide for a differentiation between dogs used for bomb sniffing and drug sniffing. The bill and emergency passed 46-0.

HB 1335 as amended, by Rep. Dennis Adkins, R-Tulsa, and Coffee, would update language relating to the use of powered or mechanized equipment by determining if the exact location of the underground facility is known. It would create a task force to study high-speed broadband in rural areas. The amendment was on page one, line 11, by inserting a new section that related to companies serving fewer than 15 percent of the total access lines in the state. The title was restored. The bill and emergency passed 42-0. Snyder made a motion to reconsider the bill whereas it had passed.

HB 1430 as amended, Rep. Thad Balkman, R-Norman, Rep. Lance William Cargill, R-Harrah, Rep. Joe Eddins, D-Vinita, Rep. Darrell Gilbert, D-Tulsa, Rep. Glen Bud Smithson, D-Sallisaw, Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, and Sen. Kevin A. Easley, D-Broken Arrow, would raise the fine for transporting an open container. The amendment changed the cap from $150 to $300.

HB 1457, by Rep. Larry E. Adair, D-Stilwell, Rep. Jari Askins, D-Duncan, and Sen. Cal Hobson, D-Lexington, would clarify the duties ofthe Board of Investors of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund and procedures for determining operating budget. The bill passed 25-16. The emergency passed 33-8. Sen. Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee, made a motion to reconsider the bill on some future legislative date whereas it passed.

HB 1569, by Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague, and Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield, D-Ardmore, would require provisions outlining minimum setback guidelines in surface damage agreements related to drilled wells. The measure would set dimensions for placement of structures, fences, debris or other man-made items. The reconsideration motion passed 44-0. The bill passed 31-15. The emergency passed 32-14.

HB 1802, by Askins, Rep. John Nance, R-Bethany, and Sen. Sam Helton, D-Lawton, would add exceptions to accreditation standards for certain equipment under the Forensic Laboratory Accreditation Act. The reconsideration motion passed 46-0. The title was restored. The bill and emergency passed 46-0.

SB 200, by Sen. Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, Sen. Ben H. Robinson, D-Muskogee, Rep. Jack Bonny, D-Burns Flat, and Rep. Bill J. Mitchell, D-Lindsay, would authorize the Oklahoma Building Bonds Commission "to issue bonds, notes, or other obligations for the purpose of refinancing or restructuring its outstanding obligations regarding bonds issued under the 1992 Oklahoma Building Bond and College Savings Bond Act." The House amendments were adopted by voice vote. The bill and emergency passed 42-0.

One measure was moved direct to the calendar. HCR 1019, by Rep. Bill Nations, D-Norman, and Sen. Jonathon Nichols, R-Norman, recalling from the Office of the Governor Enrolled House Bill No. 1117.

Four measures rejected House amendments and were sent to conference. SB 243, by Robinson and Rep. Barbara Staggs, D-Muskogee, would allow motor vehicle registration inspections by any state, county or city law enforcement officers.

SB 633, by Sen. Jerry L. Smith, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Ray McCarter, D-Marlow, would modify language concerning transportation as it pertains to bicycles, school buses, church buses and lamps and lighting.

SB 649, by Coffee and Rep. Michael Tyler, D-Sapulpa, would abolish the Oklahoma State Employees Benefits Council and transfer duties to the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board.

SB 710, by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, and Rep. John Carey, D-Durant, would allow and direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to join a multi-state prescription drug purchasing allowance.

Executive nominations were approved for Jerry Austin to the Oklahoma Capital Investment Board; Kathryn L. Taylor as the Director of Commerce and the Cabinet Secretary of Commerce and Tourism; Dwight Holden to the Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; Mary Sue Curnette Arnn to the State Board of Education; Wendell Ray Blair to the Board of Regents of Murray State College; Randall R. Gilbert to the State Board of Career and Technology Education; Joe D. Hall to the Board of Regents for the Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges; Gayle P. Miles-Scott to the State Board of Education; Kara Gae Neal to the Board of Trustees for Oklahoma State University/Tulsa; Thomas Sterling Wetzel to the Oklahoma Student Loan Authority; George Paczkowski to the Board of Regents of the Northern Oklahoma College; and Aaron Max Weitzenhoffer to the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma.

The Senate will reconvene on Monday at 10 a.m.