Comments Wednesday from a chief proponent of State Question 777 before the Norman Chamber of Commerce shows even supporters of the proposal recognize it is flawed.
As reported by the Norman Transcript, when it comes to State Question 777's ballot language requiring a "compelling state interest," Farm Bureau President Tom Buchanan told the Norman Chamber of Commerce yesterday that, "I wish that language weren't in there."
Drew Edmondson, chair of the Oklahoma Stewardship Council and former state attorney general, said the admission yesterday by a chief advocate of the proposal proves SQ 777 is faulty.
"Even the YES campaign now admits their question goes too far,” said Edmondson. “We’ve been saying all along that a measure like this has no place in our state constitution.“
The comment from Buchanan came after a Norman attorney attending his speech opined that requiring “compelling state interest” in a constitutional amendment would make it nearly impossible for lawmakers to pass laws to protect local water supplies and air quality, leaving everything in the hands of the federal government.
The term “compelling state interest” is a legal term applied to fundamental rights protected by “strict scrutiny.” "Compelling state interest" is generally associated with such constitutional rights as freedom of speech and religion and not with local water and air quality. Many legal experts in Oklahoma have said that requiring "compelling state interest" is one of 777’s dangerous flaws. Until yesterday in Norman, Buchanan disagreed with the legal experts.
"As we have said for months," Edmondson said, "SQ 777 poses serious legal problems for Oklahoma's legislature, state regulatory agencies, counties and municipalities, while doing nothing for Oklahoma family farmers."
The language in the state question originated with the American Legislative Exchange Council and has been shopped in other states around the country. But Oklahoma stands alone in requiring a "compelling state interest." That language is not included in the original ALEC bill or in laws that passed in North Dakota and Missouri.
The Oklahoma Stewardship Council is a coalition of family farmers, community leaders and concerned citizens opposing State Question 777. Other organizations that have come against 777 include but are not limited to: Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, Oklahoma Municipal League, League of Women Voters, Oklahoma City City Council, Edmond City Council, the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, Save the Illinois River, Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Bella Foundation, Oklahomans for Food, Farm and Family, Oklahoma Food Cooperative, Sierra Club, Oklahoma Welfare League, Oklahoma Alliance for Animals and Oklahoma Coalition of Animal Rescuers