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Summary of Oklahoma Legislation Relating to SQ 687

S.J.R. 9 - By Senator Frank Shurden
DESCRIPTION: A joint resolution that refers a measure to the statewide ballot to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to create a constitutional right for citizens to use animals in any type of occupation or sporting behavior.

ARGUMENT IN OPPOSITION: This measure, if approved by voters, establishes a constitutional right for any person to abuse an animal if the abuse is associated with an occupation or sporting activity. This provision would legalize dogfighting, cockfighting, and bullfighting in Oklahoma, and it would nullify any application of the state's anti-cruelty statute if the animal abuser claimed he was engaging in farming or some other occupation or sporting activity.

S.B. 829 - By Senator Frank Shurden
DESCRIPTION: A bill to create a new section of law to suspend SQ 687 for 180 days in counties where a majority voted against the initiative. The suspension of SQ 687 is continued after 180 days only if voters approve a county ballot measure to repeal SQ 687. S.B. 829 creates a mechanism to allow county commissioners in any county to place a measure on a county ballot to repeal SQ 687.

ARGUMENT IN OPPOSITION: S.B. 829 re-writes the rules for statewide elections and undermines the constitutional right of citizens to make laws by statewide ballot initiative. S.B. 829 repeals SQ 687 by suspending the voter-approved initiative in 57 counties and it allows any county to opt out of the cockfighting ban. The concept behind this legislation, if applied broadly, would subvert not only the statewide initiative process, but also the state legislative process or the process of electing any statewide official. We would cease to be the state of Oklahoma, but we would be balkanized into 77 largely autonomous counties that would set all of the rules. If the same rules applied to the state legislature, any new law that was passed would be applicable only in the districts of those legislators who voted in favor of it.

S.B. 835 - By Senator Frank Shurden.
DESCRIPTION: This bill amends SQ 687 to narrow the definition of cockfighting to include only fights between birds if they are fitted with sharp implements on their legs. It also repeals the ban on possessing fighting roosters. And it reduces violations of this law to misdemeanors.

ARGUMENT IN OPPOSITION: This bill repeals several core provisions of SQ 687 by radically narrowing the definition of cockfighting to include fights only if the birds have knives or gaffs attached to their legs. Since fighting birds have these implements strapped to their legs just before and during a fight, it legalizes possession of fighting birds, effectively legalizing the cockfighting industry in the state. Facilities for cockfighting would still be allowed, and the industry would continue to operate, with law enforcement having to catch perpetrators in the act of fighting birds with knives on their legs. The penalties for the few cockfighting activities that would remain illegal would be so minimal that cockfighters would view the occasional arrest as a minor cost of doing business. Oklahoma voters approved all of SQ 687, not just one part of it.

H.J.R 1006 - By John Trebilcock
Description: A joint resolution that refers a measure to the ballot to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to require a three-fourths vote of both chambers of the Legislature to amend a citizen initiative.

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR: It is now too easy for the Legislature to overturn a citizen initiative, with each chamber needing only a simple majority to send a repeal measure to the Governor. Citizen initiatives are typically launched precisely because the Legislature is hostile to the core idea behind the initiative, as with the anti-cockfighting petition, which was initiated after years of failed efforts to outlaw cockfighting through representative government. Once the people pass a measure, the Legislature should respect the judgment, even if they disagree with the decision. Many states with the initiative process require more than a simple majority vote of the legislature to overturn a citizen initiative.

H.B. 1784 - By Representative Randall Erwin.
DESCRIPTION: A bill to refer a measure to the ballot to reduce all penalties in SQ 687 to misdemeanors with a maximum fine of $500. It eliminates any jail penalty for a violation of SQ 687.

ARGUMENT IN OPPOSITION: This measure, if approved by voters, guts SQ 687 by rendering it unenforceable. People who are cited for engaging in cockfights, appearing as spectators at cockfights, and possessing birds for fighting would get the equivalent of an expensive parking ticket if they are arrested at all. Since fighting birds are sold sometimes for more than $500 and thousands are wagered on fights, a maximum fine of $500 would simply be viewed as a minor additional business expense. The penalties in SQ 687 are the same as those established by the Legislature for dogfighting violations, and are needed to deter the activity. If people want to avoid the penalties set forth in SQ 687, they can simply refrain from engaging in illegal animal fighting.