Oklahoma State Questions

state_questionHere is a summary of the State Questions on the Oklahoma ballot and my brief take on each.

BALLOT TITLE FOR STATE QUESTION NO. 776

This measure adds a new section to the Oklahoma Constitution, Section 9A of Article 2. The new Section deals with the death penalty. The Section establishes State constitutional mandates relating to the death penalty and methods of execution. Under these constitutional requirements:

  • The Legislature is expressly empowered to designate any method of execution not prohibited by the United States Constitution.
  • Death sentences shall not be reduced because a method of execution is ruled to be invalid.
  • When an execution method is declared invalid, the death penalty imposed shall remain in force until it can be carried out using any valid execution method, and
  • The imposition of a death penalty under Oklahoma law­—as distinguished from a method of execution—shall not be deemed to be or constitute the infliction of cruel or unusual punishment under Oklahoma’s Constitution, nor to contravene any provision of the Oklahoma Constitution.

My vote – YES

You can thank liberals for this one being on the ballot. Their continual assaults on the death penalty and on the availability of drugs used for lethal injections brought this one to your ballot. Anti death penalty advocates think they are ‘helping’ but all they will end up doing is bringing back the electric chair or other methods if lethal drugs become unavailable for executions in Oklahoma.

BALLOT TITLE FOR STATE QUESTION NO. 777

This measure adds Section 38 to Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution.

The new Section creates state constitutional rights. It creates the following guaranteed rights to engage in farming and ranching:

  • The right to make use of agricultural technology
  • The right to make use of livestock procedures, and
  • The right to make use of ranching practices.

These constitutional rights receive extra protection under this measure that not all constitutional rights receive. This extra protection is a limit on lawmakers’ ability to interfere with the exercise of these rights. Under this extra protection, no law can interfere with these rights, unless the law is justified by a compelling state interest-a clearly identified state interest of the highest order. Additionally, the law must be necessary to serve that compelling state interest.

The measure—and the protections identified above—do not apply to and do not impact state laws related to:

  • Trespass,
  • Eminent domain,
  • Dominance of mineral interests,
  • Easements
  • Right of way or other property rights, and
  • Any state statutes and political subdivision ordinances enacted before December 31, 2014.

My vote – NO

I know there are many farmers, ranchers and people on the right who support this and I can understand why. Leftist groups like the Sierra Club and PETA are continually pushing for new laws and regulations that end up harming those in the agricultural industry and increasing costs for consumers at the supermarket. A prime example is a new law in California that requires dairy farmers to reduce methane emissions from manure to forty percent below 2013 levels by 2030. I’m not sure how that’s even possible, but you can be sure that possible or not, whatever methods are attempted will be paid for by consumers when purchasing dairy products.

SQ777 is well-intentioned but has two flaws that I cannot overlook. First, there is no procedure even mentioned for complaints against ranchers and farmers who are engaged in activities not prohibited by laws enacted prior to December 31, 2014. I do not believe protecting Oklahoma agriculture from encroaching liberalism should include what is ostensibly carte blanche to do whatever they want.

Second and most importantly, SQ777 would end up giving power to judges who will decide if future agricultural laws passed by the legislature meet the new standard of “compelling state interest.” Power to decide that should rest with the legislature; not one man in a black robe.

BALLOT TITLE FOR STATE QUESTION NO. 779

This measure adds a new Article to the Oklahoma Constitution. The article creates a limited purpose fund to increase funding for public education. It increases State sales and use taxes by one cent per dollar to provide revenue for the fund. The revenue to be used for public education shall be allocated: 69.50% for common school districts, 19.25% for the institutions under the authority of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, 3.25% for the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, and 8% for the State Department of Education. It requires teacher salary increases funded by this measure raise teacher salaries by at least $5,000 over the salaries paid in the year prior to adoption of this measure. It requires an annual audit of school districts’ use of monies. It prohibits school districts’ use of these funds for increasing superintendents’ salaries or adding superintendent positions. It requires that monies from the fund not supplant or replace other educational funding. If the Oklahoma Board of Equalization determines funding has been replaced, the Legislature may not make any appropriations until the amount of replaced funding is returned to the fund. The article takes effect on July 1 after its passage.

My vote – NO

It’s bewildering to me why so many people support this. This is a $615 million tax increase on every Oklahoman being marketed as more money for teacher salaries. In reality, more than 60% of the funds from this tax increase would go to higher education and other things besides teacher salaries. This question would not even be needed if we had legislators who weren’t afraid of angering the teacher’s union. School district consolidation would save millions every year, but the Democrats won’t even discuss it because they are shills for the teacher’s union and the Republicans won’t push the issue because they’re afraid of damaging their chances for reelection. So here we are, voting on an unnecessary $615 million tax increase. If it passes, nothing will change and the teachers will still be screaming for more money. But by then Oklahoma will have the highest sales tax in the nation and municipalities will have great difficulty funding local projects with sales taxes because the rate is already so high. The damage that could be caused by passage of this question is alarming.

BALLOT TITLE FOR STATE QUESTION NO. 780

This measure amends existing Oklahoma laws and would change the classification of certain drug possession and property crimes from felony to misdemeanor. It would make possession of a limited quantity of drugs a misdemeanor. The amendment also changes the classification of certain drug possession crimes which are currently considered felonies and cases where the defendant has a prior drug possession conviction. The proposed amendment would reclassify these drug possession cases as misdemeanors. The amendment would increase the threshold dollar amount used for determining whether certain property crimes are considered a felony or misdemeanor. Currently, the threshold is $500. The amendment would increase the amount to $1000. Property crimes covered by this change include; false declaration of a pawn ticket, embezzlement, larceny, grand larceny, theft, receiving or concealing stolen property, taking domesticated fish or game, fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, or issuing bogus checks. This measure would become effective July 1, 2017.

My vote – NO

While I understand the push for this I do not believe this is the way to go. Reducing penalties for certain crimes will do nothing but increase the number of those crimes. I have seen numerous posts and statements from law enforcement and prosecutors who think this is a horrible idea and I agree with them.

A prosecutor friend of mine shared this (Thanks, John!):

My name is Brad…I just broke into your car overnight busting your car window ($400), stole your X-box and other items ($300), went to a Pawn Shop and committed fraud by saying I owned these items for more than 6 months. I was arrested with some of your items in my car and I had 19 grams of Meth in my pocket (20 grams is trafficking). I have also been convicted of rape, arson and cruelty to animals (I busted a puppy’s head into a wall when I was high). (By the way he can’t go to Drug Court because of his violent past)….My punishment… Under SQ780 and 781…. A MISDEMEANOR! VOTE NO!

Criminals are not going to stop committing crimes because their crimes of choice are reclassified from felony to misdemeanor. Such a change will increase the number of these crimes since the penalty for committing them is being reduced. Passing this question would essentially be rewarding criminals who commit drug and property crimes. I will not participate in that.

BALLOT TITLE FOR STATE QUESTION NO. 781

This measure creates the County Community Safety Investment Fund, only if voters approve State Question 780, the Oklahoma Smart Justice Reform Act. This measure would create a fund, consisting of any calculated savings or averted costs that accrued to the State from the implementation of the Oklahoma Smart Justice Reform Act in reclassifying certain property crimes and drug possession as misdemeanors. The measure requires the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to use either actual data or its best estimate to determine how much money was saved on a yearly basis. The amount determined to be saved must be deposited into the Fund and distributed to counties in proportion to their population to provide community rehabilitative programs, such as mental health and substance abuse services. This measure will not become effective if State Question 780, the Oklahoma Smart Justice Reform Act, is not approved by the people. The measure will become effective on July 1 immediately following its passage.

My vote – NO

This question is a companion to State Question 780 and will not take effect unless 780 passes. Both should be defeated.

BALLOT TITLE FOR STATE QUESTION NO. 790

This measure would remove Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which prohibits the government from using public money or property for the direct or indirect benefit of any religion or religious institution. Article 2, Section 5 has been interpreted by the Oklahoma courts as requiring the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the State Capitol. If this measure repealing Article 2, Section 5 is passed, the government would still be required to comply with the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, which is a similar constitutional provision that prevents the government from endorsing a religion or becoming overly involved with religion.

My vote – YES

Most people probably think of this question as a referendum on the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capitol building. While that may have been the primary reason for this question, there is more to it than just the monument. The Blaine Amendment, as Section 5 is known, has been used by a district court to rule against a voucher program that allowed public funds to be used to pay tuition at private schools. The Oklahoma Supreme Court did rule the program to be constitutional earlier this year, but the fact remains that Section 5 is a potential weapon for the ALCU and leftist judges and it should be removed.

I have read arguments from people who plan to vote no because they fear a slippery slope if this question passes; one that would potentially allow things such as a satanic monument on capitol grounds. I don’t agree this fear should warrant leaving a legal weapon available to anti-religion activists when it can be eliminated. Passage of this question may result in attempts to belittle religion in Oklahoma with statues to satan or a spaghetti monster, but those can be dealt with at that time and should not be considered when voting on this question.

BALLOT TITLE FOR STATE QUESTION NO. 792

This measure repeals Article 28 of the Oklahoma Constitution and restructures the laws governing alcoholic beverages through a new Article 28A and other laws the Legislature will create if the measure passes. The new Article 28A provides that with exceptions, a person or company can have an ownership interest in only one area of the alcoholic beverage business-manufacturing, wholesaling, or retailing. Some restrictions apply to the sales of manufacturers, brewers, winemakers, and wholesalers. Subject to limitations, the Legislature may authorize direct shipments to consumers of wine. Retail locations like grocery stores may sell wine and beer. Liquor stores may sell products other than alcoholic beverages in limited amounts. The Legislature must create licenses for retail locations, liquor stores, and places serving alcoholic beverages and may create other licenses. Certain licensees must meet residency requirements. Felons cannot be licensees. The Legislature must designate days and hours when alcoholic beverages may be sold and may impose taxes on sales. Municipalities may levy an occupation tax. If authorized, a state lodge may sell individual alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption but no other state involvement in the alcoholic beverage business is allowed. With one exception, the measure will take effect October 1, 2018.

My vote – NO

Supporters of this question say its passage would make beer and wine more readily available. That’s all I need to know to vote no. Full disclosure – I am not a consumer of alcoholic beverages. I will vote no on this question because I do not believe having alcohol more available would be good for our state. There is already enough damage done from alcohol. In Oklahoma there were around six hundred deaths from alcohol-related crashes in 2015 just in cities with a population of 5,000 or greater. Do we really need more alcohol out there? I wouldn’t vote for this anymore than I’d vote to start selling marijuana in grocery stores. But, from what I have read I expect this question to pass. It will be interesting in a year or two to compare alcohol-related incidents and crashes with this year and see how many are dead and injured due to the increase in alcohol availability. 

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