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
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