Senator Frank Shurden announced plans to introduce legislation making cockfighting legal in the counties that voted against a state question banning the sport. The measure would also give every county the option of making cockfighting legal or illegal.
"Even though State Question 687 passed, 57 counties voted against the ban. My bill would keep cockfighting legal in those counties. In the 20 counties that voted for 687, cockfighting would remain illegal. But my bill would also include a county option mechanism so that individual counties could decide whether to allow or ban the sport," said Senator Shurden.
Senator Shurden had already announced plans to change the penalties for cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor. His bill would include that language, and also remove all penalties for related activities including raising cockfighting birds.
"I am strongly opposed to making it illegal for law abiding citizens to raise poultry or livestock. These animal activist groups have no right to come here and keep people from making a living. Next thing they'll want to do is ban calf roping at rodeos. I'm sure they'd like to make raising calves illegal as well. But ranching is still a major industry in Oklahoma, and we need to protect it," commented Shurden, D-Henryetta.
Several lawsuits have been filed across the state challenging the new law banning cockfighting, and many law enforcement officers have said enforcing the ban would be an extremely low priority.
"I've said from the beginning that 687 was a poorly written proposal with unfair penalties. Not only that, but I think there are still some serious questions about why it was ever placed on the ballot. The Supreme Court's own referee determined the initiative petition was more than 10,000 valid signatures short of the amount needed, but the justices certified it anyway," said Shurden.
"The one good thing is that it wasn't a constitutional amendment. That means we can go back during the session and amend what is obviously a badly written law. That's exactly what I intend to do."
The 2003 legislative session meets for one organizational day in January, and then will begin considering legislation after it reconvenes in February.