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Bandying bans

By World's Editorial Writers
4/16/2003

Is there hope for a reasonable proposal?
There is reason to hope this Legislature might come up with a reasonable, modified cockfighting ban to send to voters after all. But given the way this issue has been playing out this session, it's way too early to call.

There are a couple of modified bans still working their way through the Legislature and in their present forms, none would be acceptable to the voters who overwhelmingly endorsed a tough ban last November. One version calls for only a $500 penalty and another version includes that provision plus a maximum one-year jail term. Both versions make violations a misdemeanor.

The version approved by voters made cockfighting a felony with penalties ranging up to 10 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. Obviously voters were serious about shutting down this barbaric activity.

On Monday, Sen. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, offered an amendment to the House version that would set a minimum $2,000 penalty for a first-time offense, which would be a misdemeanor. Subsequent offenses would be felonies with penalties ranging up to 10 years in prison and fines of $2,000 to $25,000.

Coffee's amendment is the first legislative proposal this session that comes close to reflecting the sentiments of voters. The threat of jail time or a felony conviction and/or a major blow to the pocketbook are needed to discourage continued participation in this gruesome spectacle. A $500 slap on the wrist won't do it.

Obviously the cockfighters' champion, Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, saw the Coffee amendment for the real threat that it is to his rooster-fighting supporters, so he moved to table the amendment. But his motion to table failed by a 26-20 vote, with Republicans and Democrats joining to defeat the motion. Shurden then asked that the amendment be laid over, which buys him time to do some more arm-twisting.

That Shurden's attempt to table the amendment failed suggests the Senate could be ready to get serious about resolving this embarrassing controversy. If the House would go along, then it's possible a reasonable proposal will make it to a statewide ballot after all. (One more thing: In fairness, any modified ban question ought to go on a general election ballot, as was the case with the ban adopted last November, so that more Oklahomans will be heard on the issue.)