State questions explained

By Kathleen Guill -

There were seven state questions on Oklahoma ballots Nov. 8. Four out of the seven questions were voted into action.

State Question 776

Oklahomans overwhelmingly voted yes for SQ 776, with 941,336 votes for yes, and 477,057 votes for no. This adds a new section to the Oklahoma Constitution. Section 9A of Article 2 deals with the death penalty.

With the passage of SQ 776, the Legislature can designate any method of execution as long as it’s not prohibited by the United States Constitution. This means that a death penalty won’t be cancelled if an execution method is declared invalid. The penalty will be upheld when a valid execution method is found.

State Question 779

The measure known as SQ 779 would have raised Oklahoma sales tax by one cent and part of the funds would have been designated to public education. It was voted down with 852,641 votes for no, and 582,505 votes for yes. According to the state election board, the passing of SQ 779, would have funded teacher salary increases by at least $5,000 over the salaries paid in the year prior to adoption of this measure. It would have also required an annual audit of school districts’ use of monies.

Many teachers are upset that the measure didn’t pass, like long-time teacher Julie Treadwell.

“We as teachers are still hopeful (because) 42 of our new Legislators are former teachers,” Treadwell said. “I believe they will have education as a priority. Right now that’s our only hope.”

State Question 777

The measure SQ 777 also was voted down. There were 863,752 votes for no and 568,891 votes for yes. If this measure had passed, it would have created new rights for Oklahoma farmers regarding agricultural technology, livestock procedures, and ranching practices.

State Rep. Chris Kidd (R-Waurika) said that even though the measure didn’t pass, farmers and ranchers would continue doing what they do.

“Despite State Question 777 not passing, Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers are resilient and full of tenacity,” Kidd said. “As a rancher myself, we will continue to care for the land, our livestock and provide America with a safe and abundant food supply. Going into the future, we must continue to protect our farmers and ranchers and their way of life, as they are the backbone of our communities, our state and our country.”

State Question 780

The measure SQ 780 was passed with 829,928 votes for yes and 595,431 votes for no. This measure changed drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. According to the state election board, this amendment changes the classification of some drug possession crimes as well as cases where the defendant has a prior drug possession conviction. This amendment also increases the dollar amount of property theft that is considered a felony. The current amount is $500. Effective July 1, 2017, the amount increases to $1,000.

Property crimes covered by this change include but are not limited to embezzlement, larceny, grand larceny, theft, receiving or concealing stolen property, fraud and forgery.

State Question 781

The measure SQ 781 was passed with 794,341 votes for yes and 618,910 for no. Even though this measure was passed, it only did so because SQ 780 was passed. This measure created the County Community Safety Investment Fund. This fund consists of any calculated savings or averted costs that accrued to the state from the implementation of the Oklahoma Smart Justice Reform Act in reclassifying certain property crimes and drug possession as misdemeanors. This measure will also become effective July 1, 2017.

With the passage of SQ 780 and 781, some law enforcement officers are concerned that the crime rate will go up. Others are concerned that small departments and rural communities will be overburdened when overcrowded jails are filled even more with the people who will now be charged with misdemeanors instead of felonies.

“The taxpayers didn’t want a penny tax for the teachers who deserve way more than what they currently get,” said Bill Hunt, who is the assistant police chief at the Tipton Police Department. “But they voted to pass 781 which is going to cost the taxpayers a lot more. The county jails’ housing and medical costs from all these misdemeanor drug offenders will overwhelm an already overwhelmed system.”

State Question 790

The measure SQ 790 would have removed Article 2, section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution if it had passed, but it was voted down by 808,248 votes for no and 606,675 votes for yes. This measure would have made sure that government money or property would not benefit any religion.

State Question 792

The measure SQ 792 passed with 983,543 votes for yes, and 491,868 for no. According to the state election board, this measure repeals Article 28A and will create other laws. The Legislature will create licenses for retail locations, liquor stores and places serving alcoholic beverages and may create other licenses. Another aspect of this measure is that grocery stores can sell wine and beer. This measure will take effect Oct. 1, 2018.

“We support the consumer-driven effort that led us to today. SQ 792 will bring increased selection and convenience for consumers, and help the Oklahoma beer industry grow. We look forward to Oct. 1, 2018 when beer modernization officially comes to Oklahoma,” Anheuser-Busch Sales of Oklahoma Spokesperson Eric James said.

By Kathleen Guill

Reach Kathleen Guill at 580-379-0588, ext. 2602.

Reach Kathleen Guill at 580-379-0588, ext. 2602.

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