All five state ques­tions merit vot­ers’ ap­proval

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - OPINION -

TUES­DAY’s elec­tion bal­lot in­cludes five state ques­tions. The Ok­la­homan rec­om­mends a “yes” vote on all five, which are re­viewed here: State Ques­tion 793. This would al­low eye clin­ics to op­er­ate in­side re­tail es­tab­lish­ments such as Wal­mart or Tar­get. Op­po­nents con­tend ap­proval will es­sen­tially lead to a Wal­mart takeover of health care. But op­tometrists will still be sub­ject to state li­cen­sure, which is among the strictest in the coun­try, and health and safety stan­dards will re­main in place. There’s no rea­son to be­lieve ap­proval of SQ 793 will re­sult in lower over­all qual­ity.

And, con­sumers aren’t obliged to use op­tometrists at a Sam’s or a Tar­get, and no op­tometrist will be forced to op­er­ate from a big-box lo­ca­tion. Ap­proval of SQ 793 will in­crease mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion, in­crease con­sumer ac­cess and lower prices for eye­wear.

State Ques­tion 794. Called “Marsy’s Law,” this ini­tia­tive guar­an­tees that cer­tain rights for crime vic­tims will be “pro­tected in a man­ner equal to the de­fen­dant’s rights.”

SQ 794, if ap­proved, will ex­pand the court pro­ceed­ings at which a vic­tim has the right to be heard, add a right to rea­son­able pro­tec­tion, a right to pro­ceed­ings free from un­rea­son­able de­lay, and a right to talk with the pros­e­cu­tor. It will al­low crime vic­tims to refuse in­ter­view re­quests from the de­fen­dant’s at­tor­ney with­out a sub­poena. Crime vic­tims will have the right to be no­ti­fied of a de­fen­dant’s re­lease or es­cape from cus­tody. This ques­tion also re­quires that judges have an op­por­tu­nity to con­sider the views of vic­tims when weigh­ing whether to ap­prove a plea agree­ment.

Many of the pro­tec­tions in­cluded in this state ques­tion are typ­i­cally pro­vided to­day, but not al­ways con­sis­tently.

State Ques­tion 798. Ap­proval of this ques­tion would re­sult in can­di­dates for gov­er­nor and lieu­tenant gov­er­nor run­ning on the same ticket, be­gin­ning in 2026. Twenty-six states al­ready do the same thing.

Ap­proval wouldn’t change any of the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. How­ever, pair­ing the of­fices on the bal­lot will help en­sure the can­di­dates share the same vi­sion and can work to­gether, which isn’t al­ways the case.

State Ques­tion 800. This would cre­ate an Ok­la­homa Vi­sion Fund, de­signed to re­duce some of the rev­enue swings as­so­ci­ated with en­ergy taxes and lead to slightly more sta­ble rev­enue in leg­isla­tive bud­get­ing.

Un­der SQ 800, be­gin­ning in 2020 the fund would re­ceive 5 per­cent of col­lec­tions from the gross pro­duc­tion tax on oil and gas. The per­cent­age of GPT go­ing to the fund would in­crease by two-tenths of a per­cent­age point each year. Ev­ery year, 4 per­cent of the av­er­age an­nual prin­ci­pal amount over the pre­ced­ing five years would be de­posited into the state’s gen­eral rev­enue fund to spend as law­mak­ers wish. Five per­cent of fund cash could be used to pay for debt obli­ga­tions of the state or coun­ties. Money from the fund would be in­vested to in­crease its hold­ings over time.

State Ques­tion 801. Presently, school dis­tricts may use 5 mills of prop­erty tax dol­lars for a “build­ing fund” that pays for such things as build­ing main­te­nance, re­pair, up­keep and con­struc­tion. SQ 801 would al­low lo­cal dis­tricts to in­stead use that rev­enue in other ways, in­clud­ing to raise teacher pay, hire staff or make other gen­eral ex­pen­di­tures.

Ap­proval wouldn’t in­crease taxes. It would merely give lo­cal school boards more flex­i­bil­ity in how they use ex­ist­ing funds — a sen­si­ble idea.

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