, Muskogee, OK

March 5, 2013

Oklahoma taxpayers could help fund federal challenges

Associated Press

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahomans who support Attorney General Scott Pruitt's effort to push back against federal mandates on states would be able to donate to the cause while filing their taxes under a measure approved Tuesday in the state House.

The bill passed on an 80-15 vote would put a line on individual income tax forms allowing a contribution to be made to a new "Constitutional Challenge Litigation Cost Revolving Fund." The money in the fund could be used to defend state statutes from constitutional challenges or to file lawsuits against federal laws.

"I'm tired of wasting taxpayer money on issues we know won't be upheld in court," said Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs. "A lot of voters support these issues, and I felt this was an opportunity for them to help fund these lawsuits."

Oklahoma has more than a 20 funds currently listed on tax forms to which taxpayers can designate a portion of their refund, including programs for wildlife diversity, food banks, abused children, breast cancer and pet overpopulation.

Pruitt campaigned on a pledge of fighting the federal government's perceived intrusion into states' rights. He created a federalism unit within the office, which currently is challenging the tax penalty provisions of the federal health care law, Environmental Protection Agency regulations and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Pruitt's office also has been forced to defend several laws passed by the Legislature that have been challenged in court, including several measures targeting abortion.

Diane Clay, a spokeswoman for the office, said Dorman's bill wasn't requested, but that they "don't have an issue with the bill."

Clay said all of the constitutional challenges have been handled by in-house attorneys, with the exception of a legal challenge against a bill passed by the Oklahoma Legislature 2010 that required women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound image placed in front of them and to listen to a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure. In that case, Pruitt's predecessor hired an outside attorney, who has received $155,000 through June 2012.