Tulsa City Council Looks At 'Unintended Consequences' Of SQ 777

Wednesday, October 12th 2016, 6:17 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The Tulsa City Council is afraid a constitutional change through state question 777, could threaten Tulsa's water supply.

The council's vote Wednesday comes after the folks overseeing the water supply cautioned the state question could really have some unintended consequences.

The City Council doesn't often take on state issues, but this state question drew their attention.

"There are some unintended consequences of 777, and there really are some city impacts," City Councilor Anna America said.

The original wording of the resolution asked people to vote against it - that's been changed to just ask voters to consider the consequences.

“The unintended consequences could be very severe for cities across the state, and we don't have the right to come in and fix that because that's protected in the constitution, we won't have the ability to change it,” America said. “Say Tulsans want to restrict a certain kind of agriculture in the city, we won't have that right anymore.”

According to the Oklahoma State Election Board, “The new Section creates state constitutional rights. It creates the following guaranteed rights to engage in farming and ranching: the right to make use of agricultural technology, the right to make use of livestock procedures, and the right to make use of ranching practices.”

It says, “These constitutional rights receive extra protection under this measure that not all constitutional rights receive. This extra protection is a limit on lawmakers’ ability to interfere with the exercise of these rights. Under this extra protection, no law can interfere with these rights, unless the law is justified by a compelling state interest-a clearly identified state interest of the highest order. Additionally, the law must be necessary to serve that compelling state interest.”

The state question has support from many of the state's leading agriculture groups - which jointly said, "Oklahoma agriculture needs to be protected from outside groups and outside interests."

And those groups are buying advertising that says it's to protect farmers and consumers.

"The amendment will protect our way of life and protect your access to quality food choices," one advertisement says.

But the city council has been warned the amendment could limit Tulsa's ability to protect the watershed for the water supply - possibly even invalidate new zoning codes developed in the last year.

America said, "If there's a need to protect agriculture, do it another way, but we need to protect city rights to set their own land use restrictions, and our water quality is a big issue. We're concerned about the impact this could have on the paths for water coming into Tulsa."

The council was warned in the worst case scenario that Tulsa's new zoning code, approved last year, could be at risk.