Challenge seeks to keep Oklahoma farming measure off November ballot

Media

Opponents of State Question 777 have filed an appeal to try and keep the measure on farming practices off the statewide ballot in November.

Attorneys for opponents of the ballot measure have filed an accelerated appeal in the case, in hopes the Oklahoma Supreme Court will take up the matter before a deadline in late August for the Oklahoma Election Board to print the November ballot, said Heather Hintz, an attorney for plaintiffs in the case.

“We are asking the Supreme Court to retain the appeal because it's a matter of public importance that has widespread public impact,” Hintz said.

The nonprofit Save The Illinois River Inc., Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, and two private citizens filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court in March to challenge State Question 777.

Oklahoma County District Court Judge Patricia Parrish threw out the lawsuit in May.

The plaintiffs have challenged the constitutionality of State Question 777 on several grounds, and argue that the measure is so blatantly unconstitutional that it would be a waste of state resources and misleading to voters, Hintz said.

“There is a strong Oklahoma policy that something that is facially unconstitutional should not go to the ballot because it's a waste of resources and it misleads voters,” she said.

State Question 777 is a state constitutional amendment that would prevent Oklahoma lawmakers from passing legislation to regulate agriculture unless it has a “compelling state interest.”

Voters in North Dakota and Missouri have passed similar measures.

Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, authored a bill at the Oklahoma Legislature to get State Question 777 on the November ballot.

“The lawsuit was nothing but a stunt by special interests to keep Oklahomans from having a voice, and this appeal is trying to do the same thing,” Biggs said.

Biggs said he believes the measure will protect Oklahoma farmers from restrictive laws to regular farming and ranching at the behest of special interest groups.

“Farmers and ranchers know how to do their jobs and they don't need anyone from Hollywood and Washington, D.C., to tell us how to do things,” he said.