Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Council Considers Position on SQ 777

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Council Considers Position on SQ 777

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - Council members stopped short of taking a formal position against State Question 777 Tuesday on advice from the city attorney that it could be misconstrued as campaigning.

However, council members pushed back against Kenny Jordan's counsel, asking to take a look at his citations before revisiting the issue again. Like many other municipal governments that have already made policy declarations, Councilman Pete White wants his peers to collectively say no to the state amendment.

On Jordan's advice, White's proposal Tuesday was only that City Hall should provide "essential information" to city residents regarding the Nov. 8 ballot. The state question, sometimes referred to as Right to Farm by proponents and Right to Harm by opponents, would limit the state Legislature's ability to regulate agriculture except for issues of compelling state interest.

If approved, the question would amend the Oklahoma Constitution by adding a new section guaranteeing the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices. Supporters see the proposal as a proactive defense against interference from overregulation. The Oklahoma Farm Bureau heads the coalition of backers that includes the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, Pork Council, Cotton Council, Poultry Federation and American Farmers and Ranchers.

Former State Attorney Drew Edmondson addressed the council as a city resident Tuesday. He said SQ 777 would provide wide protections to agriculture that no other industry enjoys. The term "compelling state interest" is the most difficult legal standard to prove in legislation, Edmondson said.

Jordan said he could find no comparative cases in Oklahoma, although he said the attorney general's office has issued two opinions for guidance.

"The majority legal view is that the expenditure of public funds cannot be used to advocate a particular result in an election," Jordan said. …

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