Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Foes of right to farm bill change tactics after court challenge dismissed

Plaintiffs whose pre-election challenge to the constitutionality of the so-called Right to Farm Amendment was dismissed as untimely by the Oklahoma Supreme Court shifted gears to focus on community outreach and educating the public about its impact if passed. State Question 777 would carve out constitutional protections for "citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma" engaged in farming and ranching activities. It would prohibit lawmakers from passing any laws that might infringe upon the rights of that limited class "to employ agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices without a compelling state interest." Save the Illinois River President Denise Deason-Toyne said educating the public "is the key" to prevent passage of a legislative referendum she and other critics contend would cripple efforts to protect and preserve the state's natural resources. STIR, a grassroots coalition of clean-water advocates was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit seeking the removal of SQ 777 from the general election ballot in November. The justices, two of whom were appointed as substitutes for two disqualified jurists, affirmed an Oklahoma County District Court Judge Patricia G. Parrish's dismissal of STIR's legal challenge, but for a different reason. Parrish found the measure constitutional on its face, a ruling rejected by the high court in favor of an argument based upon a separation of powers. "The Oklahoma Supreme Court ... basically stated it will not inject itself into the legislative process by deciding the validity of legislation before it is enacted," Deason-Toyne said. "This ... is not a decision on the merits of our claims — it just is basically stating that our challenge shouldn't be heard unless and until SQ 777 becomes law."...more

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