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Oklahoma bills to cut cockfighting laws backed by big money

{p}Oklahomans voted to outlaw the act in 2002, but House Bill 3283 aims to amend the law to lessen the punishment for cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor. (KOKH){/p}

Oklahomans voted to outlaw the act in 2002, but House Bill 3283 aims to amend the law to lessen the punishment for cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor. (KOKH)

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Oklahoma lawmakers pushing to reduce the penalty for cockfighting received donations from a special interest group.

Both bills, H.B. 2530 and S.B. 1006, have passed their respective committees and will soon move to each chamber’s floor for a vote.

Oklahoma was one of the last states to ban cockfighting, doing so in 2002. However, animal rights activists previously told NewsChannel 8 it is the “cockfighting capital of the United States.”

Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said the battle against cockfighting is far from over.

“We face members of the legislature that want to ease or eliminate the penalties against cockfighting,” he explained. “Justin Humphrey has reintroduced a bill he has introduced before.”

Rep. Humphrey (R-Lane) doesn’t see it that way, claiming H.B. 2530 is a criminal justice reform bill.

“We’ve had many laws,” he told the state’s House Judiciary Committee, “like heroin and fentanyl, reduced to a misdemeanor. And so what we’re trying to do is just get fairness, and create fairness in punishment.”

But H.B. 2530 isn’t the only bill with this goal in mind. S.B. 1006, introduced by State Senator Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle), has identical wording.

“First of all, this is not making anything legal,” he told the Tourism and Wildlife Committee. “It simply changes the penalty from a felony to a misdemeanor.”

“I’m working with the Oklahoma Gamefowl Association on this,” he continued. “They did not have an issue with that.”

There is no Oklahoma Gamefowl Association. The Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission, however, is a political action committee. Records indicate it has given over $41,000 to 53 Oklahoma politicians since its first filings in the second quarter of 2022.

Sen. Paxton received $2,500 between two donations from the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission. Rep. Humphrey got $1,000.

State Senator Todd Gollihare (R-Kellyville), as well as State Rep. Jason Lowe (D-Oklahoma City) and Lonnie Simms (R-Jenks), all of whom voted for the bills to escape committee, got $500 each.

U.S. Senator Markwayne Mullin also received $500 from the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission. Governor Kevin Stitt was given $2,000.

“I find that tragic,” Edmondson said, “that people in positions of influence, who have taken an oath to defend the Constitution, would support an activity that is a felony under the laws of the State of Oklahoma.”

It may not be a felony for long. S.B. 1006 passed the Tourism and Wildlife Committee with eight ayes and two nays. H. B. 2530 passed the Judiciary Committee Wednesday with five ayes and two nays.

State filings show the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission did not receive any individual contributions until mid-November 2022.

Oklahoma law says all donors who give more than $50 must be identified. However, the group’s paperwork lists all individuals as “unknown.”


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