Tuesday’s State Election Questions

The list of state questions for the election probably is the most variegated I’ve seen, and certainly the most interesting. Here’s a summary of them, with the icons for how I’m going to vote and the reasoning behind it.

744: Amends the state constitution to require Oklahoma to spend no less than the average amount on schools (per student) of the bordering states in any given year. If the average in the other states drops, Oklahoma spending stays constant.

This vote is easy. Two major issues here:

  1. Why should Oklahoma be entirely at the mercy of other states? This is sovereignty issue, and one that puts state sovereignty at distinct risk by setting a bad precedent.
  2. Those who cast this as a vote “for education” are misleading voters using an oversimplified, red-herring argument that’s a bunch of pseudo-populist crap. I’m all for improving education. I’ve got kids in the public schools, and can attest first-hand that their education is insufficiently rigorous, the “A” grades too easy to come by, the emphases on standardized test scores utterly overbearing to the point they dominate curricula. Now tell me: How, exactly, is this going to ameliorate those troubles? Throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve it! Witness the horrible failure of the Kansas City experiment. No…first, Oklahoma needs to get better at the spending it already does. A great place to start would be to consolidate countless redundant school-district bureaucracies and their needless fiefdoms; Oklahoma (only 27th in population among the states) somehow has hundreds upon hundreds of school districts! I’m not about to vote to throw more money blindly at education at the state level until Oklahoma does something obvious and powerful to clean up all the crap in its own educational nest.

746: Requires a photo ID or sworn affidavit to vote.

Another easy vote. This is a positive and proactive measure to help to prevent voter identity fraud that is so rampant in the corrupt cities like Chicago, Baltimore, Houston, St. Louis and others from creeping into this state. How can anyone reasonable possibly oppose this? In any representative democracy, any step that helps to ensure that the voter is who he/she claims, is a good step. Don’t have a photo ID? Get one. If voting is important at all to someone, it’s that important.

747: Term limits for state politicians as follows: 12 years for corporation commissioner and 8 for all these…governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, labor commissioner, auditor/inspector, superintendent of public instruction, insurance commissioner.

Some people fall on the side of letting experienced politicians serve if they’re good and let the electorate throw them out otherwise. I don’t. We have positive precedent from the highest office in the land. By amendment, the U.S. president is limited constitutionally to 8 years, in order to short-circuit a disproportionate accumulation of potentially abusive power and influence (i.e., FDR’s Supreme Court packing), to lessen the time window for corruption and deep cronyism to take root, and to run fresh blood (and presumably fresh ideas) through the office. The same logic applies on the state level. We don’t need Chicago-style kingpin politics (e.g., multidecadal strangleholds on power as with Richard Daley Sr. and Jr.) in Oklahoma. If a good attorney general, lieutenant governor or governor has to go, so be it. There are other, higher or national opportunities for their service. You can’t convince me that if a good officer’s term expires, there’s nobody else at least as talented to take their place in a state of nearly 4 million people. One argument against this is that it “prevents” voters from having their say. Rubbish. By adopting term limits, the voters are having their say: we don’t want stagnation in state executive offices.

748: States that the legislature must make an apportionment after each 10-year census. Dismantles the current “apportionment commission” (composed of state executive officeholders) and re-invents a numerically bipartisan (equal Democrat and Republican) to do this in case the legislature fails to do its job. If the process falls to this commission, 4/7 vote is needed to draw legislative districts (apportionment).

This sounds complex, but it’s actually a balanced (not perfect, but acceptable) way to set up a backup option in case the legislature gets mired in bickering and/or chooses not to draw up districts after censuses. I don’t know how often this will be needed, if ever, but the measure does show something uncommon in government: preventative foresight. I like that.

750: Effectively lowers the number of people that would have to sign petitions to propose a law, a state constitutional change or a referendum. How? By making the percentage based on voter turnout for governor elections (held in non-presidential years) instead of presidential elections, when more voters show up.

This seems a little shady and disingenuous to me. By lowering the number of voters needed to force referendums, constitutional changes or bills, it disproportionately empowers a tinier minority. Like it or not, the fact is that we live in a nation of majority electoral rule. A shrill, persuasive few should not be given undue opportunity to ensnare the many in unwelcome (to a majority) processes.

751: Requires that official state actions be done in English or native tribal languages.

Slam dunk…yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Waves upon waves of immigrants came to this great nation since the 1700s. All until recently have self-motivated into learning one new language to ensure common communication and sharing of understanding. That language is English. This measure is not “xenophobic”, it is common sense. I’m disappointed that such a proposal even would be needed; but apparently it is, thanks to a growing tide of selfish, arrogant and closed-minded resistance of many newer immigrants to learn our common language. This measure actually does allow the inclusion of American Indian languages in state business too, which is of debatable merit…but not enough to detract from the bill. Is non-English official business a problem now in Oklahoma government? Not yet; and this prevents it from becoming one. Did I mention that I like preventative foresight?

752: Adds non-lawyer members to the commission that picks judges for vacancies.

I’ve been torn on this one, but have tilted YES. On one hand, lawyers ostensibly are best-qualified to gauge the competence and experience of other lawyers or judges to fill vacancies. I get that. Yet cronyism has a long and dirty history in this state; and the potential for that seems to loom large with a body like this. Also, who oversees this commission with overruling power balance? Nobody that I can tell. Therefore, the next best thing is to put non-lawyers on it for a perspective outside the insular legal world, a “fresh set of eyes” on the process, so to speak. It’s about accountability.

754: Forbids any constitutional change that would force the legislature to fund state functions based on
1. Predetermined constitutional formulas,
2. How much other states spend on a function, or
3. How much any entity spends on a function.

In short, this prevents Oklahoma from being forced by its own constitution to base its spending on that of other states or on rigid, preset math. This also is a state sovereignty issue, and I fall squarely in the camp of not hog-tying state spending based on outside states or other entities. It does bother me slightly that this is a permanent, amendment-proof measure, unchangeable forever in the event citizens of 1,000 years from now massively decide that it’s crap. That said, the advantages outnumber that disadvantage.

755: Makes state courts stick only to state or national law in deciding cases. Forbids foreign law or Islamic “Sharia law” from being used in court cases.

Once again, a thousand times yes! Another clear sovereignty issue and foresighted preventative measure, this time judicial. Look, this is not France or Indonesia or Iran or any other nation, it is Oklahoma of the USA. Foreign law has no place — none! — in the Oklahoma court system, and deserves exactly zero time or consideration therein. We don’t live under the Venezuelan constitution or whatever passes for one in Libya or Vietnam. This ensures such nonsense cannot creep into Oklahoma justice. Furthermore, it protects women of all faiths, and Islamic women in particular, from even the remotest possibility that the misogynistic inequities, abuses and brutalities of strict Sharia law would be forced upon them without their consent. Think it can’t happen in the civilized world? Think again. Here is a good explanation of the court system under Sharia, and a vividly illustrated editorial. Need I show more? Maybe it’s not a problem here (yet), as opponents like to say. That’s beside the point. “Trust us, it’s nothing to worry about” is the message from opponents. Well, I don’t trust them. This measure prevents that problem in this state, period.

756: Forbids the state from forcing people or employers to participate in a health care system, and officially allows private insurance. Federal law, as in the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause, could override this.

Another sovereignty-based measure that I support. It also ensures citizens the freedom to chose their health care options and not have one forced upon them by Big Brother, as the feds have done (and may yet be repealed). This is where the libertarian in me sprouts forth. Maybe the majority of voters here will approve this in a backlash against “Obamacare.” If so, good.

757: A rather mundane and esoteric measure that takes 15% (instead of the current 10%) of surplus money from the previous year (if there was a surplus) and tosses it into something called the “Constitutional Reserve Fund.”

A reluctant YES. I’d like for the purpose and oversight of this fund to be stated clearly and specifically in this measure, and it’s not. On the other hand, setting aside surplus for any sort of rainy-day fund is a good thing, as is increasing the share that doesn’t get spent or wasted.


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