Originally Published in Tulsa World
Written By Barbara Hoberock
barbara [dot] hoberock [at] tulsaworld [dot] com
Although only two state questions officially have been put on the ballot, the prospect that several more will be put before voters on Nov. 8 is nearly certain.
Gov. Mary Fallin must issue a proclamation to put measures on the ballot after passage by the Legislature or successful circulation of an initiative petition. Officially on the ballot by order of the governor are State Question 777 and 776. Both were added by lawmakers.
State Question 777 is called Right to Farm by supporters and Right to Harm by critics. It would enshrine the rights of farmers in the Oklahoma Constitution, making it more difficult to put regulations on the industry. It is supported by Oklahoma Farm Bureau and opposed by the Humane Society.
SQ 776 would proclaim that all death penalty laws are in effect and methods of execution can be changed. It states that the death penalty is not cruel or unusual punishment.
Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, is the author of Senate Joint Resolution 31 that put it on the ballot. He did not return phone calls seeking comment.
At least four measures are awaiting placement on the ballot. State Question 792 seeks to modernize the state’s liquor laws, allowing cold, strong beer and wine to be sold in grocery and convenience stores. If approved by voters, it would not become effective until October 2018.
SQ 790 would remove the constitutional prohibition against the use of public dollars and property for religious purposes. Sen. Rob. Standridge, R-Norman, was the Senate author of the measure to get it on the ballot.
Standridge said it was in response to a Supreme Court order requiring the removal of a privately funded Ten Commandments monument from the Capitol grounds based on that section of the state constitution. “I think the precedent that sets should be worrisome to anything in the state that has any relation to religion ” Standridge said, adding it would include the Christmas tree lighting at the Capitol and hospitals with religious affiliations that receive state dollars.
State Question 781 would create the County Community Safety Investment Fund. Money saved by reclassifying as misdemeanors certain property crimes and drug possession would go into the fund. The funds are to be given to counties for rehabilitation programs. It is contingent on passage of SQ 780. It would reclassify as misdemeanors certain property offenses and simple drug possession.
Another high profile proposed state question is embroiled in a second legal challenge. State Question 779 seeks to increase the sales tax by one cent to fund education, including a $5,000 teacher pay raise. University of Oklahoma President David Boren led efforts to secure signatures to get it on the ballot.
OCPA Impact, the lobbying arm of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, filed suit in the Oklahoma Supreme Court after an earlier unsuccessful legal challenge.
Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana use are still gathering signatures in an effort to get State Question 788 on the ballot. They are also circulating an initiative petition to get SQ 787 on the ballot. It seeks to increase the time allowed to circulate an initiative petition to one year from 90 days. Supporters hope to turn in signatures by early August. They need 65,987 registered voters to get it on the ballot to make the statutory change. The most recent effort is the third to get it on the ballot.
Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said by law, Fallin has 70 days before the election to issue a proclamation to put a measure on the ballot. Legally, the deadline is Aug. 30, but officials need information by Aug. 26 because of deadlines for mailing absentee and overseas ballots, he said.