AG says state question on marijuana written too broad
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said while he will continue to monitor Environmental Protection Agency-related litigation, he also is interested is directing activities toward illegal drugs and getting a handle on what he terms abuses of Oklahoma's Open Records Act.
Hunter, who was named to his position by Gov. Mary Fallin in February after former Attorney General Scott Pruitt became head of the EPA, brought a broad background to his new role, from serving in the House of Representatives and as chief of staff for former U.S. Congressman J.C. Watts, to serving as Pruitt's first assistant and Fallin's Secretary of State.
Now, he heads the Oklahoma agency formerly run by one of his bosses. Hunter said he vowed he would not be critical of or compare himself to his predecessor, but would carve his own path in the AG's office as he prepares to run for his own term in 2018.
Open Records requests
One of his issues is the Open Records Act, which specifies how governmental agency records are to be kept and made available to the public. Such requests for state records come to the Attorney General's Office, where those records must be scanned for confidential information that is not recoverable, before records may be released to the entity requesting them.
Hunter said his office has about 100 Open Record requests pending, many surrounding emails that Pruitt sent while he was attorney general.
"It's a weaponized tool," Hunter said, explaining that out-of-state entities are using the state's Open Records Act to demand reams of records and, unlike state media, are refusing negotiations to narrow requests to more reasonable searches.
He said while he strongly supports what he calls blue skies laws, such broad-based requests are difficult to respond to in a timely manner without taking hours of staff time.
Hunter said that after talking to others in the state, including the Oklahoma Press Association, he plans to talk to legislators about a proposal for the 2018 session, creating an office that would act as an arbitrator when the state and entities who make broad requests for records can't negotiate a narrower scope on those records.
In the meantime, Doug Allen, Hunter's chief deputy, said the office is in the midst of hiring 12 legal interns who will spend the summer responding to those 100 pending Open Record requests. Allen said eight of those interns have been selected; the remaining positions will be filled when the state's law schools end spring semester testing.
Another area of focus will be drugs and Hunter, like many other law enforcement officials, has strong opinions about marijuana usage, which gained increased notoriety in this region when Colorado liberalized its marijuana laws.
Pruitt joined with others in suing over what they say is Colorado's over-broad law, arguing it would increase problems for law enforcement agencies in surrounding states. Hunter said time has proven that Colorado's law has negatively impacted others.
"If Colorado wasn't a state, it would be a drug cartel," he said, adding that law enforcement paints a grim picture of what Colorado's law has meant for them.
He remains critical of the law and what he said was the Obama Administration's refusal to enforce federal drug possession laws, but said the nation's new attorney general is reviewing that policy.