As I've done three times before, I'm cranking out the list of State Questions on this year's general-election ballot, along with my usual brand of semi-informed opinion. The text of the Questions is straight from the State Election Board [link goes to PDF file] and I assume no responsibility should the language therein make Maureen Dowd frown.
SQ 735: This measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It adds Section 8D to Article 10. The measure takes effect January 1, 2009. It creates an exemption from personal property tax. The exemption would be for the full amount of taxes due on all household personal property. The exemption would apply to certain injured veterans. It would also apply to those veterans' surviving spouses. To qualify for the exemption an injured veteran would have to meet certain requirements. First, a branch of the Armed Forces or the Oklahoma National Guard would have to have honorably discharged the veteran from active service. Second, the veteran would have to be an Oklahoma resident. Third, the veteran would have to be the head of the household. Fourth, the veteran would have to be one hundred percent permanently disabled. Fifth, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs would have to certify the disability. Sixth, the disability must have occurred through military action or accident, or resulted from a disease contracted while in active service. The Legislature could pass laws to carry out the exemption. Such laws could not change the amount of the exemption.
State Question 715, back in 2004, provided this same break for the tax on real property; 742 would provide an exemption from the personal property tax [link goes to PDF file] levied by counties. In Oklahoma County, this includes "business furniture and fixtures, business equipment, business inventory, farm equipment, and manufactured homes." I favored 715, and I also favor 735.
SQ 741: This measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It would add a new Section 22A to Article 10. This section is related to exemptions from property taxes. It would require a person or business to file an application for an exemption. No exemption could be granted prior to filing an application. The Legislature may write laws to carry out the provisions of this section.
This seems a bit vague, but the enabling legislation [link goes to PDF file] wasn't: "A person or a business could not file an application late," it said, "in order to obtain an exemption for a prior tax year." So no more backdating of applications for tax exemptions. I'll go for that.
SQ 742: This measure adds a new section to the State Constitution. It adds Section 36 to Article 2. It gives all people of this state the right to hunt, trap, fish and take game and fish. Such activities would be subject to reasonable regulation. It allows the Wildlife Conservation Commission to approve methods and procedures for hunting, trapping, fishing and taking of game and fish. It allows for taking game and fish by traditional means. It makes hunting, fishing, and trapping the preferred means to manage certain game and fish. The new law will not affect existing laws relating to property rights.
This is, I suspect, mostly a preemptive move to prevent animal-rights activists from whittling away at hunting and fishing in the state, which, given a chance, they almost certainly would. For example, the Humane Society of the United States says flatly: "This ballot initiative would prevent voters from deciding on future initiatives to protect wildlife." Our existing wildlife-management systems could probably use a little fine-tuning here and there, but HSUS and PETA and such object to anything up to and including making a bologna sandwich. I'm no fan of bologna, but I'll vote for this measure.
SQ 743: This measure amends Section 3 of Article 28 of the Constitution. It requires a customer to be twenty-one and physically present to purchase wine at a winery, festival or trade show. The measure changes the law to allow certain winemakers to sell directly to retail package stores and restaurants in Oklahoma. The change applies to winemakers who produce up to ten thousand gallons of wine a year. It applies to winemakers in state and out of state. Those winemakers may not also use a licensed wholesale distributor. They must sell their wine to every retail package store and restaurant in Oklahoma that wants to buy the wine. The sales must be on the same price basis. The sales must be without discrimination. Those winemakers must use their own leased or owned vehicles to distribute their wine. They may not use common or private carriers. If any part of this measure is found to be unconstitutional, no winemaker could sell wine directly to retail package stores or restaurants in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Wine News, which favors 743, sums it up this way: "Oklahoma State Question 743 will allow winemakers from Oklahoma and other states to once again sell their products directly to liquor stores and restaurants, with some large restrictions. Currently, wineries are limited to sales at fairs & festivals, unless they go through a liquor wholesaler." In my view, it's not enough we still wouldn't be able, for instance, to order wine from Woot but it's a start, and when The Powers That Be discover that the world has not in fact come to an end, maybe they'll loosen up further. Count me in favor of the loosening process.
Missing numbers, as follows:
Only one measure is currently in the petition-gathering stage: SQ 744, dubbed "Helping Oklahoma Public Education," would mandate an increase in funding per public-school student to the regional average, phased in over three years. Petitions are due in by November 5th, which is, yes, the day after the 2008 general election, so if 744 garners enough support, it would presumably appear on the 2010 ballot. The complete list of State Questions, all the way back to SQ 1 (1908), is open for public inspection.
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