Oklahoma Passes Bill To Restrict Soliciting

A bill prohibiting animal rights organizations from soliciting contributions in Oklahoma intended for out-of-state or for political purposes passed the state House of Representatives by a 56-26 vote (19 excused) on Tuesday. A vote calling for immediate enactment failed to get a required two-thirds majority (50-24-27). The measure now will head to the state Senate.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) called House Bill 2250 “demonstrably unconstitutional and amounts to a waste of taxpayer money to clog the courts with this content –based restriction on speech.” If enacted, the measure could open the door to restrict work of other nonprofits, the organization said.

“It’s absurdly overreaching that it would bar any Oklahoma animal organizations from lobbying to strengthen our anti-cruelty law or to fight a bill to repeal our state’s anti-cockfighting law,” said Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma state director of HSUS. “Our legislators are attempting to defund an entire category of work that helps billions of animals throughout the world every years – not with tax dollars but with hard-earned dollars of Oklahomans who chose to spend their money as they wish,” she said in a statement. “Big government should not tell private Oklahoma citizens how to spend their money or what causes they can support,” she added.

The primary sponsor of the bill is Rep. Brian Renegar (D), with co-sponsors Reps. John Enns (R), Scott Biggs (R) and Johnny Tadlock (D). The primary sponsor in the state Senate is Sen. Larry Boggs (R). The measure was released from the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on Feb. 10 by a 12-0 vote.

A similar bill was introduced last month in Missouri (H.B. 2604) by Rep. Charlie Davis (R).

In Rhode Island, a bill that would require mandatory disclosure of the percentage going to professional fundraisers was recommended for further study. The House Corporations Committee held a hearing Tuesday on H.B. 7322, which was introduced in January. The bill has five sponsors: Reps. Stephen Casey (D), Christopher Blazejewski (D), Cale Keable (D), Michael Morin (D), and Blake Filippi (I).

Content-based regulation of speech and mandatory disclosures previously have been ruled unconstitutional, violating the 1st and 14th amendments. The 1988 landmark case Riley v. National Federation for the Blind struck down a North Carolina law that included a requirement that fundraisers disclose the percentage of funds they raised in the past year that went to charity. More recently, in 2003, the courts strengthened the constitutional protection for charitable solicitations in Madigan v. Telemarketing Associates, Inc.