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People's will

By World's Editorial Writers
3/27/2003

Lawmakers won't leave it alone
Legislation that would lead to another statewide vote on the cockfighting issue could pass this week unless lawmakers come to their senses, which does not seem likely.

All that reasonable people can do is continue to make the obvious points in hopes that common sense will break out at the Capitol -- another unlikely prospect.

Pending legislation would ask voters to reconsider the penalties they adopted in November. A new question would reclassify cockfighting violations as misdemeanors with insignificant fines. Put another way, it would let cockfighters continue and only face a small fine. Given the state of law enforcement in rural areas, the most sheriffs would do is haul cockfighters in now and then to be fined, sort of an annual fee to carry out this barbaric business.

Asking voters to reconsider a landslide vote is outrageous. As one astute reader noted, lawmakers have agreed that voters ought to have the right to vote on a lottery, but in the same breath they're saying the voters' word on cockfighting should not be accepted. Which is it?

The state question banning cockfighting was unambiguous: In four different passages, the term felony is used. Spectators would be guilty of misdemeanors. Forfeiture provisions are included.

It's clear voters knew what they were doing and wanted the outcome that resulted. They want to send a strong message that this activity is not acceptable in Oklahoma. At the same time they don't want scores of cockfighters jamming crowded prisons, but nobody really expects that to happen. How many dogfighters are currently in prison?

Devious lawmakers are engaging in a cynical exercise that would allow cockfighting to continue with virtually no consequences. We would have another unenforced law.

There might already be serious byproducts of cockfighting. Authorities suspect a devastating outbreak of a serious poultry disease began with illegal cockfighting. In California, the disease has seriously harmed the poultry and egg industries.

Lawmakers could -- and should -- save Oklahoma a bunch of grief if they would abide by the will of the people.