Oklahoma State Ballot Question Review

A cursory look at what’s going to be on the ballot.

Questions are from the Oklahoma Policy Institute:

State Question 776: Changes the Oklahoma Constitution: Removes the requirement for a Death sentence to be reduced to Life without parole if a Court decides the method of execution selected is invalid. Any approved method of execution in Oklahoma is legally valid and stands.

Also provides that the giving of the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment, which I assume means it wasn’t explicitly written into law before this point.

My take:

If you’re against the death penalty in general, vote no, as it keeps the current loophole/standard in place that can reduce the number of executions.

If you’re for the death penalty, vote yes, as it gives the state more control and options regarding how to carry it out.

State Question 777: Changes the Oklahoma Constitution: Would ‘lock in’ current standards and practices for Oklahoma farmers, and make it harder to add more regulation later. Essentially adds a provision that making changes to farming and ranching regulations requires proof of a clear State interest of the highest order from here on out. It does not reduce the current standards or remove existing oversight.

My take:

EDIT: I have reversed this position, and my reason can be found here.

I can’t think of a good reason to vote no on this one. It won’t make any existing standards go away, but it makes it much harder for outside pressures to damage Oklahoma food producers through over-regulation in the future. That keeps prices down and keeps farming local, which we need badly.

State Question 779: An increase to the Oklahoma Sales Tax for education spending. Divides the money between school districts, colleges, Department of Career and Technology, and State Department of Education. Also requires teacher salary increases. It prohibits the money going to Superintendent salaries or new superintendent positions. It contains provisions prohibiting the Legislature from replacing other funding with this, meaning all current funding stays the same and this goes on top.

My take:

Oklahoma is already one of the highest tax states in the country, and that hurts us far more than any new program will help us. This money will not fix anything, it will not improve the schools, or the quality of education, because the problems are inherent in the system, and not due to a lack of resources. Let’s talk cutting out things we don’t need and that are bad for Oklahoma, like the windmill subsidies, and then have a referendum on reforming State education methods and standards, and then we’ll talk about appropriating more funds for education.

State Question 780: This makes possession of controlled substances like marijuana, heroin, cocaine, or meth a misdemeanor, period. It would also raise the threshold where embezzlement, larceny, grand larceny, theft, receiving or concealing stolen property, fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, issuing bogus checks, and certain other crimes become a felony to $1,000.

My take:

First, it’s not the State’s job to decide what’s good or bad for an individual, so I am all for this. Fighting drug addiction cannot be done through law, as Prohibition showed with alcohol. Only a cultural shift can do that. You want to move people off drugs,  give them a culture that doesn’t leave them needing an escape.

Second, raising the felony threshold actually makes a lot of sense to me, because felonies are ruinous and $500 isn’t even quite a month’s rent for most people. While we do need further reforms to how we handle criminals, right now there are way too many people going to penitentiaries for relatively minor things.

Yes, the guy who stole your deep freeze/grill/whatever is a jerk, but I really don’t want him living in a tiny room with drug lords for 25 years learning how to sew up a human mule, make meth in an antifreeze bottle, and how many ways there are to kill a guy with a pen. There are better ways to deal with the thief than putting him in thief school with nothing but time.

State Question 781: Contingent on 780 passing: Would put the money saved on prison costs into rehab programs within the state. The state Office of Management and Enterprise Services would be directed to determine the annual savings, which will be distributed to counties in proportion to their population.

My take:

…in theory. This sort of guesstimating re-appropriation never works in practice. Even with 780 passing, I think we’d be better off just letting people keep their money.

State Question 790: Changes the State Constitution: constitutional amendment that would repeal Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which reads, “No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.”

My take:

This is about the 10 Commandments monument. This is about stupid, stupid judges who cannot differentiate between honoring our history and promoting a viewpoint. We ARE a Christian nation. Christianity features heavily in our history and development as a civilization. Placing a monument to our history is no more a state sanction of a religion than displaying canopic jars in a publicly funded museum. By definition, public property is public, and therefore can contain things that a majority approve of but a minority do not. Everything offends someone, if that’s our standard, then we can’t even have government buildings. Because they offend me.

Furthermore, there is no such thing as separation of church and state. Everyone’s religion influences what laws they want passed. Nobody in their right mind wants a State-required religion, but this chimp-out over recognition of the role of Christianity in Western Civilization is absurd.

I’m fine with passing this one, but expect me to fight anything that even smells of State control over personal religious practices in the future. And yes, I consider Atheism, Agnosticism, Secularism, Humanism, etc. religions.

State Question 792: Changes the State Constitution: Repeals Article 28 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which prohibits grocery stores and other retail locations from selling wine and high point beer. It would also allow liquor stores to sell things other than alcohol. Would also allow multiple liquor stores to be owned by one company, which is currently illegal.

My take:

This one’s actually a bit more complicated, and a good example of why we should legally require all bills to be about one specific thing. I am all for removing the legal barriers to grocery stores to sell wine and high point beer (I believe hard liquor would still be the venue of dedicated liquor stores), but I completely understand the concerns people have about bigger stores running small ones out of business through sheer market power. These two things should not be in the same bill, as they are not prerequisite to each other.

At this point, it comes down to which one is more important to you. If protecting small business owners is more important, vote no. If removing absurd restrictions is more important, vote  yes.

Final Word:

Remember that no matter what happens, people will challenge it, the government will screw it up and twist or ignore it when it suits them, and we’ll be back at this in 2 years. There are no fixes here, only trends. Are we moving toward a stronger Oklahoma, or a weaker one? What kind of Oklahoma do we want to become?

I’ve voiced my opinions here, and we’ll see how much of Oklahoma agrees with me on the 8th.

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