2018 State Question Analysis

Five state questions will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Legislative Referendums are placed on the ballot by the Oklahoma Legislature. Initiative Petitions are placed on the ballot by gathering signatures from citizens. Each question is reprinted here as it will appear on the ballot followed by a brief summary.

STATE QUESTION 793
Allow Optometrists & Opticians to Operate in Retail Stores
INITIATIVE PETITION 415
STATE QUESTION 793
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.”
SHALL THE PROPOSAL BE APPROVED?
FOR THE PROPOSAL — YES
AGAINST THE PROPOSAL — NO
SUMMARY: This measure, which was placed on the ballot after a successful initiative petition and Supreme Court challenge, amends the state Constitution. It precludes the state from stopping an optometrist or optician’s ability to practice within a retail establishment or discriminate against optometrists or opticians based on the location of their practice. External entrances for optometric offices within retail establishments would no longer be required. The Legislature could pass laws to restrict optometrists from performing surgeries within retail establishments, limit the number of locations at which an optometrist may practice and maintain optometric licensing requirements. It also requires optometric offices to be in a separate room of a retail establishment and imposes health and safety standards. Current law bans eye clinics from operating inside retail stores. SUPPORTERS OF THE CHANGE SAY it gives Oklahoma consumers more choices in eye care and the purchase of prescribed glasses and contact lenses. If passed, Oklahoma would join 47 other states that allow optometrists and opticians to work inside stores like Wal-Mart and Costco. OPPONENTS SAY it gives large retailers too much power and will eventually drive smaller, independent optometrists out of the market. That eliminates competition and could raise prices. Also, they say putting retail optometry in the Oklahoma Constitution limits the legislature’s ability to make changes quickly if there are unintended consequences from the amendment.

STATE QUESTION 794
Marsy’s Law Crime Victim Rights Amendment
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM 371
STATE QUESTION 794
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.
SHALL THE PROPOSAL BE APPROVED?
FOR THE PROPOSAL — YES
AGAINST THE PROPOSAL — NO
SUMMARY: The amendment, known as Marsy’s Law, requires state courts and prosecutors keep crime victims informed of proceedings on their case. It is often done informally or through victim assistance programs. It adds to several other crime victim rights added to the Constitution in 1996. Lawmakers voted to put the measure to a vote of the people. Six other states — California, Illinois, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Ohio — have similar measures although Montana’s law was struck down by its Supreme Court.
SUPPORTERS OF THE CHANGE SAY defendants should not have more rights than crime victims. Victims and their families should be heard in matters such as plea bargaining and sentencing, they argue.
OPPONENTS FEAR overburdened courts and prosecutors will have to hire additional staff to keep up with cases. In addition, allowing victims and family members to testify at every stage of a court hearing could interfere with a defendant’s right to a fair trial or parole hearing. The legal challenge in Montana involved including too many separate issues on a single ballot vote.
STATE QUESTION 798
Governor and Lieutenant Governor Joint Ticket

LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM 372
STATE QUESTION 798
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 for 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.
SHALL THE PROPOSAL BE APPROVED?
FOR THE PROPOSAL — YES
AGAINST THE PROPOSAL — NO
SUMMARY: Lawmakers put this issue on the November ballot. Occasionally, the state’s Governor and Lieutenant Governor belong to different political parties. That scenario could lead to officials working against each other. Oklahoma would not be alone in such an endeavor to prevent this scenario. The governor and lieutenant governor run on the same ticket in 26 states. Seventeen states have separate votes similar to Oklahoma.
The other states do not have a lieutenant governor or the position is designated as a top legislator. If voters approve, it will be up to the legislature to come up with a procedure for the joint nomination and election of the candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Some states hold separate primaries and others require Governors to pick their running mates, much like a President picks a vice presidential running mate.
SUPPORTERS SAY it gives the state’s top leaders a unified vision and better coordination. Combining the two, they argue, would draw more media attention to the secondary office and better inform voters. OPPONENTS FEAR combining the ticket gives the Governor too much power.
In addition, a governor forced out of office, they say, should be replaced by a lieutenant governor more independent of the outgoing administration.
STATE QUESTION 800
New Reserve Fund for
Oil and Gas Revenue
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM 373
STATE QUESTION NO. 800
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.
SHALL THE PROPOSAL BE APPROVED?
FOR THE PROPOSAL — YES
AGAINST THE PROPOSAL — NO
SUMMARY: The Oklahoma Vision Fund, put on the ballot by lawmakers, would set aside 5 percent of oil and gas gross production taxes into a trust fund beginning July 1, 2020. That percentage would increase each year by two tenths of a percent. Earnings from the fund’s investments and other appropriations directed there by the legislature would also remain part of the fund. Four percent of the average annual amount in the fund over the preceding five years would flow into the state’s General Revenue Fund. Up to five percent of the fund’s balance could be used to pay state debt or local government debt.
If approved, the Oklahoma Vision Fund would be the state’s third budget reserve fund, behind the Constitutional Reserve (Rainy Day) fund and the legislature-created Revenue Stabilization fund. No more than five percent of the fund could be used to pay off state or local government debts. SUPPORTERS SAY by creating such a trust fund, the state is preparing for anticipated declines in oil and gas production and helping to meet future budget needs. A well-invested fund will grow over time and create a revenue stream that future legislators can appropriate, they say. OPPONENTS SAY creating yet another trust fund diverts too much state tax money away from Oklahoma’s current needs. They also argue the state should not be paying debt obligations that belong to local governments.

STATE QUESTION 801
Allow Building Fund Revenue
for School Operations
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM 374
STATE QUESTION 801
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.
SHALL THE PROPOSAL BE APPROVED?
FOR THE PROPOSAL — YES
AGAINST THE PROPOSAL NO
SUMMARY: This question was placed on the ballot by lawmakers. Public school districts in Oklahoma are allowed to use five mills ($5 for every $1,000 of assessed value) of property tax dollars for building funds, which can include such expenses as repairs, maintenance, upkeep and construction on district property.
State Question 801 removes that Constitutional restriction and gives individual school districts the authority to use more property tax dollars for day-to-day operations such as teacher salaries or additional employees.
It would not increase revenue for schools since all Oklahoma school districts tax at the maximum 44 total mills allowed.
SUPPORTERS SAY the change would create more district competition and give them greater spending flexibility. Districts with lower property values could raise teacher salaries to attract highly-qualified teachers.
OPPONENTS SAY the proposal could lead to more disparity and inequity among rich and poor districts. They say it does not create any more tax revenue and is merely a way to shift more of the burden of teacher salaries from the state Legislature to local school boards.