Thursday, October 25, 2018

OCPA explains the five State Questions on the ballot


Every two years, Oklahoma voters go to the voting booth and find out that they are voting on more than just candidates for office; usually, there are multiple constitutional amendments on the ballot as well. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) recently posted the following explanation of the five State Questions that are on the ballot:

From OCPA:
Want a simple description of Oklahoma’s ballot measures? OCPA doesn’t support or oppose ballot measures, but we do provide simple descriptions of what each one would do. Linked to each description is the full text of the measure and details on who is behind them.

SQ 793: Legalizing eye care and the sale of eyeglasses at regular retail stores

Oklahoma is one of only three states that bans large retailers like Target and Walmart offering in-store optometrist services. SQ 793 would remove this restriction, allowing more of a free market in eye care that should result in consumers gaining increased access to these services and products.

This measure was placed on the ballot via signature gathering. The change is opposed by some optometrists and others who benefit from the status quo. In a way, the measure is similar to the alcohol modernization efforts that passed on the ballot in 2016 and were implemented this fall. You can read the full proposal here.

SQ 794: “Marsy’s Law” would repeal current victims’ rights laws and replace them with others

Marsy’s Law is a list of rights for victims of crime that California first adopted in 2008. Oklahoma already has specific victims’ rights protections in law, which SQ 794 would repeal, replacing them with more general requirements. While Marsy’s Law claims to be mandatory, there is no penalty if government fails to follow any of the requirements.

In recent years, Oklahoma has adopted a series of criminal justice reforms. Some advocates of these reforms have urged caution on Marsy’s Law. Meanwhile, law enforcement groups and prosecutors who opposed many of the criminal justice reforms are in favor of Marsy’s Law. The Legislature voted in 2017 to put Marsy’s Law on the ballot. You can read the full proposal at Ballotpedia.

SQ 798: Governor, Lieutenant Governor on the same ticket

If this measure passes, candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor would run together on one ticket—just like the President and Vice President do. Twenty-six states do this already according to Ballotpedia. The purpose of the measure is to simplify Oklahoma’s executive branch and make sure the two top executive branch officials are working together.

SQ 798 was placed on the ballot by the state Legislature and, if passed, will take effect beginning with Oklahoma’s 2026 election cycle. You can read the full measure here.

SQ 800: Another state-run investment fund

This proposal would create a new, state-run investment fund. Specifically, SQ 800 would take an ever-increasing portion of collections from Oklahoma’s gross production tax on oil and natural gas production, put the money in a fund that would be invested in financial markets, and then transfer a small portion of it each year into the General Revenue Fund for legislative appropriations.

Oklahoma already has similar investment funds holding a significant amount of state resources. These include the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) and the Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO). Together, TSET and the CLO oversee over $3 billion in state assets, equivalent to more than one-third of the state’s appropriated budget. Read the full measure here.

SQ 801: Local control for local school funds

When parents complained that Catoosa Public Schools spent a million dollars on its football stadium while cutting school days and staff, the district’s answer was that some local tax dollars can only be used for buildings. SQ 801 would give local school districts more local control over locally raised ad valorem (property tax) dollars.

The measure would not allow bond funds to be used for operations or permit higher property taxes. But it would break down some funding silos so that local property tax revenues that today can only go to buildings or similar expenses could also go to teacher pay or to hire new teachers. The legislature placed SQ 801 on the ballot. You can read the full measure at Ballotpedia.

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