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Senate defeats cockfight penalty bill
By John Greiner
The Oklahoman

For the second time this week, state senators Wednesday turned back a bill to soften the penalties for violating the Oklahoma anti-cockfighting law.

House Bill 1784 by Sen. Frank Shurden and Rep. Randall Erwin proposed a statewide election to reduce the cockfighting penalties from a felony to a misdemeanor fine of up to $500 and/or up to a year in the county jail.

The bill got 23 votes but needed 25 for passage. Twenty-four senators voted against it.

Sen. Mike Fair, R-Oklahoma City, said the legislation was aimed at overturning the intent of voters who went to the polls last year to ban cockfighting.

Senate GOP leader James Williamson of Tulsa said the legislation was aimed at continuing cockfighting in Oklahoma.

Shurden said his proposal was to allow people to vote once more on cockfighting penalties. He said he's never believed people should go to the penitentiary for a chicken crime, unless it is for stealing chickens.

Shurden said 57 percent of people polled recently said they didn't realize how harsh the penalties would be when they voted to ban cockfighting. He lodged a motion to reconsider the vote at a later date.

A similar measure, Senate Bill 835 by Shurden, D-Henryetta, and Erwin, D- Nashoba, has passed the Senate and is pending in the House of Representatives. It would reduce penalties for cockfighting to misdemeanors punishable by up to $500 in fines.

Shurden said he presented HB 1784 to the Senate to attempt to provide some jail time for violating the anti- cockfighting law. He said Senate leader Cal Hobson, D-Lexington, wanted jail time included among the penalties for violating the law.

On Monday, senators forced Shurden to lay over consideration of HB 1784 when it appeared they would approve an amendment to make it a felony for a second offense of violating the anti- cockfighting law.

Wednesday, Shurden had enough votes to defeat that amendment, but didn't have enough to pass the bill.