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Nonprofit Head Concerned Animal Rights Fundraising Bill Could Hurt Other Charities

Mar 15, 2016

The head of a coalition of non-profits says she's concerned about the broader effects of a bill targeting an animal rights organization. State Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, says his goal is to keep money in Oklahoma

Renegar says he’s upset that the Humane Society of the United States raised $1 million in Oklahoma after the deadly May 2013 tornadoes, but only spent $100,000 in the state.

However, Marnie Taylor, the president and CEO of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, told The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt she worries that the bill could be use more broadly in the future:

“It doesn’t matter if it’s an animal rights organization; you could substitute anybody else in there and then it’s a really scary bill,” Taylor said.

The animal charity phrase could easily be changed to reference gun rights or other organizations, she said.

“You could put the Red Cross in,” she said. “You could put the Heart Association in.”

The Humane Society says it didn’t raise the money specifically for tornado relief efforts, and says House Bill 2250 infringes on its First Amendment rights. Denwalt reports that same issue was brought up on the chamber’s floor Monday:

“Yeah, maybe we’re getting close to infringing on it,” Renegar said Monday. “But whenever there’s an outward defrauding of intent, it gives me comfort to go ahead and push the bill forward.”

The Humane Society of the United States is separate from local organizations with similar names, such as the Central Oklahoma Humane Society. Renegar, a veterinarian, said he hopes the bill encourages people to give locally instead of to national organizations.

“If the bill does not go any further, I still think it has served its purpose,” he said. “The local organization is the boots on the ground that does the most for our local animals.”

Taylor says she’s concerned the bill could hurt Oklahoma’s reputation as a state that supports charities, especially since many out-of-state donors contribute to disaster relief. It's been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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