The General Election ballot in November will contain four State Questions. As per site tradition okay, I did this twice before, in 2002 and in 2004 here's what's coming up, the official Ballot Title (in italics), and my own 2.9 cents. (Hey, if the gas stations can charge nine-tenths of a cent, so can I.)

SQ 724  This measure amends Article V, Section 21 of the State Constitution. That Section deals with State pay to legislators. The amendment restricts State pay to some legislators. The pay restriction would apply to some legislators while in jail or prison. The pay restriction would apply to legislators found guilty of a crime. It would also apply to legislators who plead either guilty or no contest. Affected legislators must return any State pay received for time while in jail or prison.

You mean we don't do this already? The Legislature came up with this following the sad/pathetic/disgusting [choose one] tale of Senator Mike O'Neal (R-Enid), who groped a woman at an Oklahoma City motel, entered a guilty plea to "outraging public decency," and served 30 days in jail, the remainder of his sentence being deferred. O'Neal drew his legislative salary while in the lockup, which outraged the public in a different way; SQ 724, while it wouldn't prevent Senators from groping women, would at least keep them off the payroll while they're serving their time. (A tip of the hat to District 87 Rep. Trebor Worthen (R-Oklahoma City), who pushed this in the House.) Clearly this deserves a Yes.

SQ 725  This measure amends the State Constitution. It amends Section 23 of Article 10. The measure deals with the Constitutional Reserve Fund also known as the Rainy Day Fund. The measure allows money to be spent from the Rainy Day Fund. The purpose of the authorized spending is to retain employment for state residents by helping at-risk manufacturers. Payments from the Fund would be used to encourage such manufacturers to make investments in Oklahoma. All such payments from the Fund must be unanimously approved by three State officers. Those officers are the Governor and the head of the Senate and House of Representatives. These officers could only approve payments recommended by an independent committee. Such spending is allowed in years when there is Eighty Million Dollars or more in the Fund and other conditions are met. Such spending is limited to Ten Million Dollars a year. The help given to a manufacturer is limited to ten percent of its in-State capital investments. The Legislature could make laws to carry out the amendment.

A lot of verbiage here, but the bottom line is this: Up to $10 million from the state's Rainy Day Fund can be used to assist Oklahoma manufacturers in dire need of emergency funding, in the hopes of keeping them from moving away or closing up shop. Qualifying firms, to receive the incentives, would be contractually required to make capital investments of at least $1 million over a two-year period; the state would pick up ten percent of those investments, spread out over five years. This proposal falls under the state's Quality Jobs Act, and firms would have to meet some basic requirements spelled out by that act, including offering basic health insurance to all employees. The State Chamber and other chambers of commerce are pushing hard for 725; I might vote for it anyway, simply because we've already lost entirely too many manufacturing jobs. In a gesture toward sensibility, the Rainy Day Fund cannot be tapped for this purpose unless there's at least $80 million on hand. Consider this a Yes, but I've got my fingers crossed.

SQ 733  This measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It amends Article 28. This Article deals with sales of alcoholic beverages. Section 6 of Article 28 bans the sale of alcoholic beverages by package stores on certain days. Package store sales of these beverages are prohibited on election days while the polls are open. This measure would remove the ban on sales on election days. If this measure passes, package stores could sell alcoholic beverages on election days.

Another step back from Prohibition. Some day we may even have actual wine in grocery stores, as is the case in most of the rest of the world. Meanwhile, every little bit helps. I'm voting Yes.

SQ 734  This measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It amends Section 6A of Article 10. This section provides an exemption from property tax. The exemption applies to goods that are shipped into the state, but which do not remain in the state for more than ninety days. This is sometimes known as the freeport exemption. This measure would allow laws to be enacted. The laws could provide for an application process to claim this exemption. The laws could require the application to be filed by a certain date. The laws could require certain information to be included with the application. The application would be filed with the county assessor.

Legally, we already have a freeport exemption in this state, which was passed in 1968; however, the rules for that exemption don't specify when the exemption can be applied for, and don't impose a deadline. (Text here.) This question nails down those requirements. I consider this a "housekeeping" measure, and will vote Yes on it.

The following measures did not make it to the ballot:

  • SQ 726, billed as the "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights". The state Supreme Court ruled that the initiative petition did not get enough valid signatures.
  • SQ 729, which covered eminent domain and land-use takings, was thrown off the ballot for violation of the state's one-subject-per-act rule.
  • SQ 731, the so-called "65 Percent Solution," which would require that percentage of state education funds to be spent "inside the classroom," was challenged by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, and the case will not be heard by the Supreme Court before the election.
  • SQ 732, which would raise the state's minimum wage by $1 in two successive years and link it to the Consumer Price Index thereafter, failed to get enough signatures. Unlike the proponents of 726/TABOR, the Raise Oklahoma group chose not to use outside circulators.

This is, I think, the first time I'll have given my assent to a complete set of state questions. The canonical list of state questions at the Secretary of State's Office goes back to SQ 27 (1911). We've had a lot of these things.

The Vent

  16 October 2006

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 Copyright © 2006 by Charles G. Hill