Saturday, February 22, 2020

State Question to modernize Oklahoma’s Constitution advances from Senate committee


Senate committee passes state question proposal to modernize Oklahoma’s state constitution

The Oklahoma Constitution is well overdue for an upgrade. That’s according to State Sen. Joe Newhouse, R-Broken Arrow, who authored Senate Joint Resolution 31, which would give power to the people to decide if the state should call a Constitutional Convention to propose alterations, revisions and amendments to the document. Although it has been amended over the years through state questions, the constitution has not undergone a comprehensive review since it was first drawn in 1906.

The proposal passed the Senate Rules Committee unanimously on Wednesday.

“We have one of the longest state constitutions in the nation, and it’s filled with archaic topics and concerns that are no longer relevant in today’s world,” Newhouse said. “The document references communication via telegram, spells out the flash point and gravity of kerosene, and even elaborates against railroad monopolies. At one point in history those were important issues, but I think it’s safe to say our state has changed with the times and our constitution hasn’t.”

The Oklahoma Constitution requires a vote of the people every 20 years to decide if it should be revised, amended or re-written, which is evidence the original drafters knew updates would be necessary, Newhouse said.

Contrary to the law, it’s been 50 years since legislators proposed a state question to give voters a voice in the matter.

Although Newhouse acknowledges revisiting a document of such importance can be an overwhelming decision for voters, he said organizing a bi-partisan working group to analyze the document prior to the vote and recommend changes that make sense for all Oklahomans could make the decision easier.

“Oklahoma is transforming to become a Top 10 state,” Newhouse said. “Modernizing our constitution, removing antiquated language and allowing our government to become more efficient for our citizens is vital to ensure our state is successful for years to come. Now is the time to make our state constitution work for us.”

SJR 31 will now go before the full Senate for a vote.

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