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Shawnee News-Star

Story last updated at 12:23 a.m. Sunday, March 16, 2003

They don't make sense

Our View

Some state legislators continue to amaze us. While House members were debating this week that citizens should be given the opportunity to vote on lottery because they know best, simultaneously state senators were deciding that Oklahomans really didn't know what they were doing in November when they banned cockfighting.

House Bill 1278, by Rep. Ron Kirby, D-Lawton, the proposal calling for a vote on the lottery, passed the House this week in a 52-49, reversing a 52-49 vote against the bill the previous week. It's headed for the Senate.

Senate Bill 835, by Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, passed the Senate the same day. It calls for a statewide vote to lessen the penalties set out in State Question 687, a constitutional amendment banning cockfighting that was passed by 56 percent of the voters.

Shurden's bill, if submitted to a vote of the people in 2004, would attempt to lessen the penalties associated with the ban from felonies to misdemeanors. His measure goes to the House for consideration where House members earlier gave their nod to a similar proposal.

There's no doubt that Oklahomans knew exactly what they were voting on Nov. 5. They were well aware that violating the ban and its specifics could carry stiff penalties. This was the only way to get the attention of those who support cockfighting and make them understand that continuing to participate in this blood sport would be criminal activity.

Gov. Brad Henry might just have the opportunity to cast his first veto if SB 835 makes it to his desk. He's been an advocate for letting the people decide on his proposed lottery, pushing for it not only in his campaign but since Nov. 5, the day he was elected.

That's the same day voters banned cockfighting.

If Shurden's bill, or anything similar to it passes, both the House and Senate, then the governor should exercise his veto power.

The people already have decided the issue. They said they are against cockfighting, just like the people in 47 other states have banned it throughout the years.

Gov. Henry has indicated previously that as far as he is concerned, the cockfighting issue has been decided. We agree with him. He must not waver because if he does, he, too, is saying that the people really didn't understand what they were doing in November and that just isn't so.

We'd encourage Gov. Henry to urge lawmakers to get beyond the cockfighting question, although enforcement of the ban in some counties is hung up in the courts today. He should insist that legislators listen to the people just as much as he has urged them to submit the lottery to a vote and allow the people to decide.

Why lawmakers can't turn their attention away from some matters and address the real concerns facing this state is beyond us.

The only meaningful accomplishment in the first two months of the current session has been to raid the Rainy Day Fund of $25 million of an emergency appropriation and that didn't even keep up with the latest cut announced this week.

It's time the lawmakers begin addressing the more important issues. Our state's future is at stake.

MJM, executive editor

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Mike McCormick may be reached at scoop1@news-star.com or at 214-3922.