We have five of them on this year's General Election ballot, and there were four which didn't actually make it through the approval process. They look like this:

SQ 793:

Ballot text:
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."

Everyone I've talked to about this measure gives exactly the same summary: "Eye doctors in Walmart." What they think of it, inevitably, is based on what they think of Walmart. What I think of it is not so much what I think of Walmart as it is what I think is most likely to happen: the practitioners bail on their small-town practices to seek big-box money in the metro areas. Health care out in the sticks in problematic already; I don't want to make it more so. Score this one No.

SQ 794:

Ballot text:
This measure amends the provisions 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 victim's rights, including:

(1) expanding the court proceedings at which a victim has 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's attorney 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 would be able to assert these rights in court, and the court would be required to act promptly.

Nationally, this package is known as "Marsy's Law," and I am automatically suspicious of any law which bears someone's name. (Background.) And there is an inherent differemce between rights afforded victims and rights afforded defendants; I'm not sure you can reconcile the two sets in a constitutional manner. That probably explains the quavering over knowing the defendant's location. And as usual with State Questions, nobody knows how this thing is supposed to be funded. I think I'd like this better were it better worded. As it stands, though, I don't like it.

SQ 798:

Ballot text:
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 from 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.

Proponents of this measure point out that under existing law, it's possible for the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor to be of — omigosh! — different political parties. This is a bad thing? No, no, no.

SQ 800:

Ballot text:
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.

It's the Rainy Day Fund, except that it isn't. The only possible purpose I can see for this measure is to give legislative incumbents a thin veneer of fiscal responsibility. Anyone who reads the news knows better than that.

SQ 801:

Ballot text:
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.

"You may use funds for this but not for that" is one of the more exasperating clauses found all over the state constitution. Opponents point out that this might result in more visible disparities between wealthy districts and their poorer neighbors, and they're probably right about that, but this is ultimately the fault of the way schools are funded in the first place, and this measure provides exactly zero dollars for school districts, rich or poor. It's a gesture in the right direction, but we need more than mere gestures at this point.

Some of the missing numbers:

SQ 795: Imposes an additional 5-percent Gross Production Tax on producing oil and gas wells. Withdrawn by proponents.

SQ 796: Reclassifies marijuana as an "herbal drug" and creates a state commission to regulate it. The Feds can be counted on to screw around with any such measure, but the petitions came up short of signatures.

SQ 797: Reclassifies marijuana as an "adult drug" and doesn't create a state commission to regulate it. The Feds can be counted on to screw around with any such measure, but the petitions came up short of signatures.

SQ 799: Would back away from recent tax increases on behalf of education. The state Supreme Court questioned the validity of such a measure, and tossed it out.

So I don't like any of these much. Quelle surprise. I am, of course, only one voter.

Previous State Question coverage: 2016, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2004, and 2002.

The Vent

  16 October 2018

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 Copyright © 2018 by Charles G. Hill