The Oklahoma City Council passed a resolution Tuesday formally opposing State Question 777, which is commonly known as the “right-to-farm” amendment. The proposal would add a new section to state law guaranteeing farmers and ranchers can operate without interference unless the state has a compelling reason to get involved.
Supporters argue the law would keep interest groups from pushing unfair regulations on farmers and ranchers, but opponents say it would allow big agriculture to operate without regard to environmental concerns and animal welfare.
Councilman James Greiner said he's personally against State Question 777, but doesn't think it's the council's place to influence voters.
"Citizens should come to that conclusion on their own without me telling them that's how they should vote,” Greiner said. “I certainly prefer the resolution we passed two weeks ago."
That earlier proposal said the city should only provide essential information to residents about the November 8 ballot. There were questions about whether or not it’s legal for the city council to address the state question, The Journal Record’s Brian Brus reports:
However, council members maintained their hands-off position on State Question 779, even though most of them are still opposed to establishing a 1-percent sales tax for education.
The difference is due to a fine detail in the origin of each ballot issue, Councilman Pete White said. The latter question is a result of an initiative petition, whereas SQ 777 comes out of the Legislature. State law disallows the expenditure of taxpayer funds on initiatives.
White said he still disagrees with city attorney Kenny Jordan that taking a little time to address the issue in City Hall construes a taxpayer expense, but he followed Jordan’s advice anyway to tackle one issue at a time.
Councilwoman Meg Salyer said the body decided to issue the stronger stance because State Question 777 originated in the House last year.
"This is not an initiative position, it's something that was brought forward by the state legislature,” Salyer said. “In my opinion, once again, is the state overstepping their bounds and tying municipalities' hands in what we can and can't do? So that's the reason I'm supportive of voting for this resolution."
The City Council passed that proposal on a 6-to-2 vote. The Oklahoma Municipal League has urged local governments to oppose the state question, and the cities of Edmond, Choctaw, and The Village have also done so.
Watch the September 13 Oklahoma City Council meeting. The State Question 777 discussion begins at 1:14:49
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