All five state questions merit voters’ approval
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.