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Bill denies local livestock regulation

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)--A state Senate committee voted Feb. 9 to strip cities and counties of the power to adopt laws governing livestock and place all regulatory authority with the Legislature.

The legislation passed the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously on Feb. 9, despite concerns it could cause health problems in cities and rural communities.

Sen. Mike Schulz, R-Altus, sponsored the legislation at the request of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.

Schulz said the bill would overturn existing local ordinances governing livestock and prevent any such laws being enacted in the future.

Livestock is defined in state law as such things as cattle, horses, sheep, swine, domesticated rabbits, chickens, turkeys, domesticated fowl and "any animal or bird in captivity."

Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma director of the Humane Society of the United States, testified against the plan.

"This legislation is not about representing your constituents' interests, but rather about keeping the decision-making authority for every issue related to the raising of livestock in the hands of special interest groups who do not represent the majority of public opinion," Armstrong said.

Schulz said it would stop laws that interfere with livestock operations when cities annex large areas.

He also said it was an attempt to "pre-empt what happened in California." He referred to adoption of Proposition No. 4 by California voters last November, which required that egg-laying hens have enough room in their cages to "lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely."

Armstrong said the proposal by Schulz would bar citizen effort to halt "the cruel confinement of animals raised on factory farms" and could potentially thwart efforts by health advocates to "address food safety concerns such as the overuse of antibiotics fed to animals on factory farms."

Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield, D-Ardmore, said he makes a living as a rancher, but wondered if the Legislature really wanted to keep cities from regulating how many cattle could be on a city lot.

Crutchfield said such a law would hamstring local officials "who are trying to deal with the health of their communities, and that's not good."

Carolyn Stager, executive director of the Municipal League of Oklahoma, said her group would be opposing the bill as it moves through the process.

"There are health and safety reasons" for local governments passing restrictions on livestock, she said.

She said she had not talked to Schulz or Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon, sponsor of a similar House bill, but such measures "are definitely on our opposed list. It pre-empts local control, which is all we are about."



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