Cockfighting, English-only questions miss November ballot deadline

Friday, September 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Anti-cockfighting and English-only state questions missed a legal deadline Thursday and will not appear on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

State law requires the governor to submit a proclamation setting a petition issue at least 60 days before the election, said Lance Ward, state election board secretary. But neither of the questions have cleared the state Supreme Court.

An Oct. 2 hearing is set in the Supreme Court on the anti- cockfighting petition. The period for filing a legal protest in the Supreme Court against the English-only proposition won't end until Wednesday.

Proponents of the propositions haven't indicated they will take legal action to get on the ballot.

Sen. Carol Martin, R- Comanche, a leader of the English-only proposal, said she would consult officials at U.S. English Inc., in Washington. The U.S. English group helped finance the petition drive.

The English-only proposal has spawned hundreds of telephone calls to the Supreme Court Clerk's office and Gov. Frank Keating's office to request quick action on an initiative petition to make English the state's official language.

"We're getting five to six calls an hour, maybe more," Supreme Court Clerk Jim Patterson said. "They're asking the court to put it on the November ballot."

Besides making English the state's official language, the proposal also directs that all state money appropriated for use in conducting business in a language other than English be returned to the general revenue fund. It could be used for English-language programs.

Keating's office sent letters to callers, telling them the governor supports the concept of English as the official language but has problems with other aspects of the proposal.

"Many immigrants are being included in the mainstream of our state's economy," the letter said. "As such, they are taxpaying citizens like the rest of us. It is wrong to deny the same government services that are provided to us just because they can't speak English adequately, or can't read a government form provided only in the English language."

The letter also answered allegations from some that the governor was trying to delay a vote on the English-only proposal.

"Those allegations are NOT TRUE," the letter said. "Governor Keating supports the right of the public to vote on this measure.

More importantly, the Governor does not have any legal authority to intervene in the initiative petition process."

The anti-cockfighting proposal would make cockfighting and related activities illegal, carrying a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $25,000 upon conviction.

"The October trial date really put a hitch in our plans to be on the November ballot," said Janet Halliburton, leader of the petition.

Opponents have challenged the constitutionality of the proposal as well as the signatures on the initiative petition.

Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico are the only states that permit cockfighting.

Halliburton said the anti-cockfighting proposal could get on the November ballot if it clears all legal hurdles soon. Ward said he has a different opinion.

"We'll take the position the statute is clear, and we cannot accept a resolution after that unless directed by a court," Ward said.