Subscribe to OK Politechs

Enter your email address to subscribe.



Oklahoma’s Five State Questions

Oklahomans will be voting on five state questions in a couple of weeks. Here are the questions and my take on each.

State Question 793 – Right of Optometrists and Opticians to Practice in Retail Establishments Initiative

This measure adds a new Section 3 to Article 20 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Under the new Section, no law shall infringe on optometrists’ or opticians’ ability to practice within a retail mercantile establishment, discriminate against optometrists or opticians based on the location of their practice, or require external entrances for optometric offices within retail mercantile establishments. No law shall infringe on retail mercantile establishments’ ability to sell prescription optical goods and services. The Section allows the Legislature to restrict optometrists from performing surgeries within retail mercantile establishments, limit the number of locations at which an optometrist may practice, maintain optometric licensing requirements, require optometric offices to be in a separate room of a retail mercantile establishment, and impose health and safety standards. It does not prohibit optometrists and opticians from agreeing with retail mercantile establishments to limit their practice. Laws conflicting with this Section are void. The Section defines “laws,” “optometrist,” “optician,” “optical goods and services,” and “retail mercantile establishment.”




My vote – Yes

Oklahoma law currently does not allow optometrists or opticians to operate inside retail establishments such as Wal-Mart. If passed, that restriction would be removed, giving consumers more access to eye care and greater flexibility in services and products. This is the free market at work. Theoretically, more competition among optometrists will also result in lower prices for consumers. Naturally, optometrists oppose this measure since it could cut into their profit margin. My own optometrist has posters and pamphlets all over his office about voting no. One poster even asks, “Would you want a butcher doing your eye exam?” Nothing like a bit of fear-mongering.

The opposition to this measure seems to be focusing on two points. First, the Wal-Mart haters who oppose anything the retail giant wants to do because they believe Wal-Mart is trying to take over the universe (slight exaggeration). The argument I’ve seen in many places is that the retailer will dictate to optometrists in their locations which service and products they provide, effectively controlling your eye care and resulting in substandard patient care. While that sounds ominous, there is no data to back up this claim. There are forty-seven other states that allow optometrists to operate in retail establishments and I’ve seen no article claiming that masses of people are going blind or having other eye problems. If it was happening you can be sure the opposition would be telling us about it. And they aren’t.

Second, the opposition claims that independent optometrists will be driven out of the market. While it’s certainly possible that some might be forced out of business, that is how the free market works. It’s not the job of the government to make sure some businesses stay open by preventing others from doing business. Also, I’ve done a cursory search of cities in other states and there are a plethora of independent optometrists. This claim is also nothing but fear-mongering.

Passing 793 gives consumers more choices with greater flexibility in when and where to seek eye care. There’s no valid reason to vote no.

State Question 794 – Marsy’s Law – Crime Victims Rights Amendment

This measure amends the provision of the Oklahoma Constitution that guarantees certain rights for crime victims. These rights would now be protected in a manner equal to the defendant’s rights. The measure would also make changes to victims’ rights, including:

(1) expanding the court proceedings at which victims have the right to be heard;
(2) adding a right to reasonable protection;
(3) adding a right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay;
(4) adding a right to talk with the prosecutor; and
(5) allowing victims to refuse interview requests from the defendant without a subpoena.

The Oklahoma Constitution currently grants victims’ rights to crime victims and their family members. This measure would instead grant these rights to crime victims and those directly harmed by the crime. Victims would no longer have a constitutional right to know the defendant’s location following arrest, during prosecution, and while sentenced to confinement or probation, but would have the right to be notified of the defendant’s release or escape from custody. Under this measure, victims would have these rights in both adult and juvenile proceedings. Victims’ rights would be protected in a manner equal to the rights of the defendants. Victims would be able to assert these rights in court and the court would be required to act promptly.




My vote – No

Oklahoma already has victims’ rights protections in law, which would be repealed if SQ794 passes. Oklahoma passed a constitutional amendment in 1996 that addressed the rights of crime victims. Victims currently have the right to know the status of court proceedings, know the location of the defendant throughout the justice process, and be heard at sentencing and parole hearings.

Since 2008, six other states have passed a version of Marsy’s Law and have found that the requirements of it come with huge costs. Since there is no section of Marsy’s Law that addresses funding, additional costs involved in complying with the new law would have to come from current funds allocated to the justice system. North Dakota found their costs increased by $2 million per year after passing Marsy’s Law.

One of the additions to the victims’ rights amendment is the removal of liability of the state and its political subdivisions for failure to comply with 794. Supporters claim Marsy’s Law is mandatory, but there is no penalty if the government fails to meet its requirements.

Marsy’s Law has been passed in a handful of states and has already caused trouble. Montana’s Supreme Court overturned the law one year ago and in South Dakota, the law has been deemed so flawed that legislators are seeking its repeal. South Dakota House Speaker Mark Mickelson told U.S. News & World Report that “unintended consequences from Marsy’s Law have degraded victims’ rights.”

Since 1996 I have read nothing that says the victim’s rights we currently have here in Oklahoma are inadequate. I see no reason to change them, increase operating costs and potentially end up with legal challenges or other unforeseen consequences.

State Question 798 – Governor and Lieutenant Governor Joint Ticket

This measure will add a provision to the Oklahoma Constitution to change the manner in which the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are elected. Currently, voters cast one vote for their preferred candidate for Governor and a separate vote for their preferred candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Under this measure, if approved, candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor for the same party will run together on a single ticket and voters will cast one vote for their preferred ticket. The measure requires the Legislature to establish procedures for the joint nomination and election of candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. If passed, this new election format will be used beginning in the 2026 general election cycle.




My vote – No

I can understand the argument for both offices being on a joint ticket. It would ensure both candidates are from the same party and would, in theory, provide leadership with a unified vision. But I do not believe that is always a good thing. A good example of this was Governor Fallin’s call for tax increases in early 2017 and Lt. Governor Todd Lamb publicly opposing said increases. He resigned in protest as a member of Gov. Fallin’s cabinet, where he served as an advocate for small businesses.

Keeping the Lieutenant Governor separate from the Governor would give the people an advocate who would not feel obligated to support the Governor in whatever he proposes. The two offices being on separate tickets does not preclude the holders of both offices from working together in furtherance of Oklahoma’s interests. Having separate tickets does give voters the opportunity to select the best candidates for each position, regardless of party, without being stuck with a good candidate for one office paired with a poor candidate for the other. By passing this question voters will be lessening their choices in selecting state leadership.

State Question 800 – New Reserve Fund for Oil and Gas Revenue

This measure would create a new fund called “The Oklahoma Vision Fund” in the Oklahoma Constitution. Money could be appropriated to the Fund. Beginning July 1, 2020, five percent (5%) of gross production taxes on both oil and gas would be deposited into the Fund. After that fiscal year, the percentage would increase by two-tenths percentage points each year. Other monies could be deposited into the Fund if provided by law. The State Treasurer would deposit four percent (4%) of the principal amount of the Fund into the State General Revenue Fund each year. The Fund would be subject to an investment standard known as the prudent investor rule. The Fund could be invested in stocks and similar securities. Not more than five percent (5%) of the monies in the Fund could be used for payment of debt obligations issued by the State of Oklahoma, state government entities or local government entities.




My vote – No

Without even discussing the pros or cons of yet another investment fund for Oklahoma, part of the language of this proposal warrants a definite NO vote.

Section F – Not more than five percent (5%) of the monies in the Oklahoma Vision Fund may be used for debt service payments due on bonds or other financing instruments issued by the State of Oklahoma, counties, municipalities, authorities, commissions, political subdivisions or any other government entities within the State of Oklahoma, subject to such restrictions as may be provided by law.

I am in complete agreement with Governor Fallin in her veto of HB1401, the legislation meant to provide a statutory framework to implement SQ800, if it passes. She said, “The state should not be paying for obligations that are not its own.”

State Question 801 – Allow Certain Voter-Approved Property Taxes to Fund School District Operations

This measure amends Section 10 of Article 10 of the Oklahoma Constitution. It expands the uses permitted for certain ad valorem taxes levied by a school district. Currently, tax revenue is placed in a building fund. The fund is changed to allow use for operations. The operations would be those deemed necessary by a school district.




My vote – No

My opposition to this is in two parts. First, while flexibility in spending sounds good, education officials are saying this proposal is not needed and does nothing for them.

News OK – Oklahoma State School Boards Association Executive Director Shawn Hime doesn’t oppose the measure, but said it wouldn’t produce any new money for schools.

We’re never against flexibility for schools,” he said. “But we don’t want it to be seen as a solution for schools.

“We’ve had zero schools in the state that have expressed an interest in this or said that they couldn’t already spend all of their building fund and more on items that are approvable under current law.”

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel said the measure wouldn’t directly affect the state’s largest district.

“We appreciate Governor Fallin’s effort to provide budget flexibility given the underfunding that districts continue to face year after year in our state,” McDaniel said in a statement. “This proposal will not have any impact on OKCPS’ budget and does not provide additional dollars to our bottom line.

Second, my fear with our tax-happy legislature is that this will be just the first step of shifting the burden of teacher salaries to property taxes. Currently, voters in every school district in Oklahoma have already increased the general operations and building fund property taxes to the maximum allowable under state law, which is 44 mills. A mill is a property tax rate of $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

If this proposal passes and school districts are allowed to use property tax money on teacher salaries, I would not be at all surprised if the legislature doesn’t increase the maximum allowable millage for property taxes, begin decreasing the funds allocated for teacher salaries and expecting the difference to be made up with increases in property taxes. This measure needs to fail to guarantee that doesn’t happen.

Leave a Reply