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AG stresses states' rights at GOP luncheon

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter talked about issues that included states' rights and litigation regarding the environment and drugs, both prescribed and illegal, during a visit to Lawton this week.

Hunter, who was guest speaker for the Great Plains Republican Women's luncheon, said the biggest problem his predecessor  Scott Pruitt, who is now the Environmental Protection Agency administrator  faced was the federal government "completely ignoring states' rights."

Since Hunter became attorney general in February, he said, he has been striving to re-establish the traditional boundaries between the state and the federal governments with regard to how the federal government approaches policy. 

"Much of the litigation that we were pursuing against the federal government was in response to overreach by the Obama administration," Hunter said. "President Trump has actually directed the EPA to reconsider both the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States regulations. ... We're looking for both of those rules to be withdrawn soon."

Honing in on environmental litigation, Hunter said 20 Democratic attorneys general do not believe the First Amendment of the Constitution applies to energy companies.

"You're probably aware that they've essentially sued Exxon(Mobil), who was attempting to participate in the climate change debate," he said. "We (Republicans) believe the First Amendment applies to companies who make money by exploring and producing hydrocarbons."

There are, however, exceptions to states' rights, Hunter said, and such an exception is the transportation of "poison" from Colorado to Oklahoma.

"Many of you probably recall when (Attorney) General Pruitt sued the state of Colorado over the decision that Colorado has made to legalize marijuana," Hunter said. "We all can agree that states' rights are something that's been an important part of our system of government ... but when a state makes a decision, and that decision affects bordering states  and in this case Colorado exports poison into our state  that's wrong."

Hunter said he will continue to stand against marijuana, as well as opioid abuse, which he will combat by establishing the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse.

"(The goal is) to get a handle on the epidemic that we've got here in Oklahoma. - There have been almost 3,000 people in our state, over the last three years, die of opioid overdose," he said.

To reduce the flow of opioids, the state should improve the the Oklahoma Prescription Monitoring Program, create programs that help opioid addicts and encourage teamwork among state, municipal, county and federal law enforcement, Hunter said.

Hunter respects the outcome of State Questions 780 and 781, he said, which will take effect July 1 and essentially reduce the punishment for drug possession from felonies to misdemeanors and create funding for rehab programs from prison cost savings.

Mary Swafford, a member of Great Plains Republican Women, told Hunter that Oklahoma "has a distinction of being No. 1 in women in prison and will soon lead No. 1 in men in prison," and she asked him how State Questions 780 and 781 will change those statistics. 

"The funding mechanism (for rehabilitation programs) in 781 is not something that's going to occur right away," Hunter said. "That's a multiple-year funding gap that we have to address in state government. - When we're 3,000 over capacity (in the prison system), it's going to take several years before we get the prison population down and we free up that funding." 

Hunter said addicts who are in recovery should be cut off from their illegal drug supply, so drug dealers, who continue to supply addicts, should be removed from the streets.

Hunter believes drug dealers are violent criminals and should be punished for their crimes, he said.

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