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State question on farming methods to stay on ballot, Oklahoma Supreme Court rules

Marty Williams walks away after feeding cattle on his farm near Red Rock, Okla., Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Marty Williams is in supports of State Question 777 that will be on the ballot in November. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Marty Williams walks away after feeding cattle on his farm near Red Rock, Okla., Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Marty Williams is in supports of State Question 777 that will be on the ballot in November. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has upheld a lower court decision allowing the proposal on regulating farming methods to remain on the November ballot. 

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 later appealed the decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. 

In its seven-page ruling, the state Supreme Court ruled that the lower court should not be able to rule on a legislative referendum before the people have voted on the matter. 

The ruling could affect other legal challenges to legislative referendums, including a challenge to State Question 792, on allowing wine sales in grocery stores, that the Retail Liquor Association has filed.

In a separate opinion, which agreed with the majority ruling, Vice- Chief Justice Douglas Combs wrote that the such challenges to ballot measures must be made in “a timely fashion.”  

“This court cannot permit potential challengers to bide their time until the ballot printing and election deadlines loom, in an attempt to force an adjudication quickly,” Combs wrote.

The plaintiffs 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.

Vote set for November

SQ 777 is a constitutional amendment that would prevent Oklahoma lawmakers from passing legislation to regulate agriculture unless it has a “compelling state interest.” The state is set to vote on the ballot measure in November.

The state question would not reverse any state statutes or ordinances enacted before Dec. 31, 2014, but any law regulating agriculture passed after that date would be subject to repeal.

Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›

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