Saturday, November 03, 2018

Steve Fair and Georgia Williams on the State Questions, Judicial Retention races

Steve Fair and Georgia Williams on the State Questions and Judicial Retention races

This is Georgia Williams and Steve Fair’s twenty second year of providing analysis of the State Questions, the Justices and Judges on the Oklahoma general election ballot. Georgia Williams and Steve Fair hosted The Grapevine, a popular political radio talk show for five years. They are knowledgeable and thorough in their research. They evaluate each proposal and person. They provide commentary on the state questions and a profile of the justices/judges. They give their recommendations on how to vote on each SQ and judge. While Steve and Georgia are both active in the Republican Party, their views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Party. To contact them, email or

State Questions on Your Ballot

State Question 793 - Right of Optometrists and Opticians to 
Practice in a Retail Mercantile Establishment 

Steve: YES: # 793 is an Initiative petition. If passed, this would likely result in big box retailers going into the eyeglass business, like they have in other states, lowering the cost of eyewear. Opponents of #793 maintain that Optometrists are local health care professionals who do more than prescribe eyewear and Oklahomans will regret turning their eye care health over to discounters. They cite the loss of local merchants due to the growth of big box retailers. Oklahomans are paying more for eyewear than consumers in other states and that is because optometrists and opticians can’t set up shop in a retail store. Local independent Optometrists should have combated the big box retailers by forging a united alliance and providing competitive pricing for the consumer by purchasing together. Their failure to do that has given the big box retailers an advantage in their industry.

Georgia: YES: #793 is an Initiative petition. I agree with Steve on this SQ. While it is true this will hurt the local Optometrists, it will benefit those who buy glasses and contacts in Oklahoma. I know many people who travel out of state to get their glasses and it is because of the restriction of not allowing glasses to be sold in retail outlets.

State Question 794 - Crime victim’s rights
(language text and info)

Steve: YES: #794 is a legislative referendum. This is a version of Marsy’s Law, which grants victims of crimes, and their families certain rights. Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Released on bail before the trial began, Marsy’s killer sought out and confronted Marsy’s mother and brother, who had no idea he had been released. The brother has made it his life’s work to get rights for victims of crime. It is law in five states and five states are voting on a version of it in November. If passed, #794 would give victims and their families the right to be notified about and present at proceedings, the right to be heard at proceedings involving release, plea, sentencing, disposition, or parole of the accused, the right to have the safety of the victim and victim’s family considered when making bail or release decisions, the right to be protected from the accused, the right to be notified about release or escape of the accused, etc. A similar law was struck down in Montana because the judiciary has ruled it violated the rights of the accused. Expect it to be challenged in Oklahoma, but #794 is a good idea and should be passed.

Georgia: YES: #794 is a legislative referendum. I agree with Steve. Victims of crime and their families should be notified about parole hearings, sentencing, and releases of the person who victimized them. It may be challenged, but I would be hopeful the judiciary would be as sensitive to the victims of crimes as they are to those who commit them.

State Question 798 - Joint nomination and election

Steve: YES: #798 is a legislative referendum. Currently, 25 states elect a lieutenant governor on a ticket with the governor, while 18 states, including Oklahoma, elect a lieutenant governor separately. Five states do not have the office of Lt. Governor. By having the two run on the same ticket, it would eliminate the possibility of a Lt. Governor from a political Party different than the Governor ascending to the top job. By their running together, it would also be more likely they would work closer together than if they ran separately and the job of Lt. Governor could be expanded. If passed, #798 would not go into effect until 2026 and therefore would not affect the current Lt. Governor, since Oklahoma has term limits for statewide offices. The Lt. Governor can only serve 8 years (2 terms).

Georgia: NO: #798 is a legislative referendum. I need more information on the nuts and bolts of this ‘new’ process. While the president and vice presi- dent run on the same ticket at the national level, it’s unclear how the process will actually work. Since the legislature is given the authority to ‘establish procedures’ for the joint nomination, it’s not clear how this will work. I have little confidence in the legislature doing this in a way to benefit Oklahomans

State Question 800 - The Vision Fund

Steve: YES: #800 is a legislative referendum. If approved, SQ#800 would create a trust fund for oil & gas production tax revenue. Beginning July 1, 2020, 5 percent of the state’s oil and gas production tax revenue would be deposited into the fund. The deposit would increase by 0.2 percent each year. Four percent of the fund’s principal would be transferred yearly into the general revenue fund. The Oklahoma State Treasurer would be able to invest the money in higher return funds, unlike the current State Rainy Day Fund, which has restrictions on how the money can be invested. #800 would create a fund similar to what Texas has for their oil/gas tax revenue. It is a good first step in removing the peaks and valleys Oklahoma typically experiences in state revenue due to the volatility of the oil and gas industry.

Georgia: NO: #800 is a legislative referendum. I have trouble with #800, because when we take a percentage of state revenue and put it into a trust fund to prop up government in down years, we grow government. We already have a Rainy Day fund, which the legislature raids every year. I don’t see the need to have a second contingency fund.

State Question 801 - Ad valorem usage authorization

Steve: YES: #801 is a legislative referendum. SQ#801 would amend the state constitution and allow local voter approved property tax (ad valorem) to be used to fund school district operations (teacher salaries, support staff). Currently that is prohibited. While #801 does allow for more local control, some critics say if it passes buildings and maintenance of buildings and equipment will suffer. Others say it will create inequity within Oklahoma education, whereby some districts will pay their teachers much more than others can afford. Neither of those arguments is without merit, but passing #801 provides more flexibility and local control to the local school board and that is much needed. The key will be to hold the local school boards accountable on how they spend the money.

Georgia: YES: #801 is a legislative referendum. I agree with Steve. My concern is that some school districts could neglect their buildings, but I believe local school patrons will hold them accountable if they fail to keep up the facilities. I would hope this would increase the money that gets ‘to the classroom,’ and doesn’t just pad the local school superintendent’s salary.

Oklahoma’s Retention Ballot System

Why are Supreme Court justices, The Court of Criminal Appeals judges and the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals judges on the ballot this year?
Oklahoma Supreme Court justices and the judges of the two other appellate courts are on the ballot in nonpartisan elections every six years so voters can determine whether they should stay in office. This regular vote is called “merit retention.” This year, four Supreme Court justices (out of nine), four Court of Criminal Appeals judges (out of five) and four Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals judges (out of twelve) have merit retention elections.

What do “Yes” and “No” votes mean?
A “Yes” vote means you want the justice or judge to stay in office. A “No” vote means you want the justice or judge to be removed from office. The majority of voters decides.

How did Oklahoma decide to use the merit retention election system?
In 1967 Oklahoma’s voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment requiring that the merit retention system be used for all appelate judges. This vote came after the public became concerned about abuses that occurred because of the earlier system of contested elections.

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Edmondson: vote NO          Karger: vote NO          Gurich: vote NO
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Wyrick: vote YES          Lewis: vote NO          Kuehn: vote YES

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Rowland: vote YES          Goree: vote YES          Swinton: vote YES

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Buettner: vote YES          Bell: vote NO          Mitchell: vote YES


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