OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma Senate panel won't hear a bill that would have prohibited state organizations from following suggestions from a United Nations plan that helps cities and countries become more environmentally sustainable.
Republican Sen. Cliff Branan, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, told The Associated Press late Tuesday afternoon that he'd decided not to hear the measure at the panel's Thursday meeting, likely killing it for this year's legislative session.
Branan said the bill is based on a "fringe conspiracy" that the U.N. wants to use its Agenda 21 plan to encroach on the private property rights of Americans.
"I check each bill one at a time, and that was really more of a solution to a problem that doesn't exist at all," he told the AP in a phone interview. "It's a fringe conspiracy-type issue that's frankly bad public policy."
Agenda 21 was the product of a 1992 U.N. conference in Brazil that aimed to encourage environmentally friendly and sustainable practices around the world. It includes suggestions from the international level down to cities and towns. Many conservatives have latched onto those local provisions, seeing them as a U.N. attempt to influence American affairs.
The bill, first introduced by Oklahoma City Rep. Sally Kern, would have prohibited towns or counties from implementing any part of the nonbinding, voluntary plan. It also would have restricted the state or any subdivisions from working with U.N.-affiliated groups. The bill passed the House 67-17.
Branan's decision not to hear the measure follows a recent surge in conservative support for the bill. Branan says his office has received hundreds of emails and calls "every 15 seconds" in recent days in support of the bill.
"It's been really crazy," he said. "My (executive assistant) is just getting carpal tunnel from picking up the phone all day."
The bill's end comes just a day after the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation joined the probe into an email to Branan from Al Gerhart, an Oklahoma City carpenter and co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party political group.
"Get that bill heard or I will make sure you regret not doing it," Gerhart wrote in the email. "We will dig into your past, (your) family, your associates and once we start on you there will be no end to it."
Gerhart defended his email in a Tuesday press conference at the Capitol, suggesting the investigation was launched because of a vague indiscretion in Branan's past. Gerhart had sent similar emails to legislators before and said he would do so again because he believes they're effective.
"Political advocacy is not blackmail," he said. "We don't want anything from these politicians except they follow the public good."
Branan dismissed Gerhart's press conference, saying the more he heard about it, the angrier he got.
"He's just a thug and a bully, and shame on him," Branan said Tuesday. "April Fools' Day was yesterday."