Oklahomans decide the fate of state questions
SQ776 – 66 percent voted yes
State question 776 declares the death penalty constitutional in Oklahoma and allows the legislature to use any execution method not prohibited by the US Constitution. The passage of this question changes very little about how the state currently operates, because the death penalty and legislature’s right to choose the execution method are already well established laws within the state.
Oklahoma statute 21-701.9. already holds that “a person who is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to murder in the first degree shall be punished by death, by imprisonment for life without parole or by imprisonment for life,” and “a person who is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to murder in the second degree shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in a state penal institution for not less than ten years nor more than life.”
In effect, the passage of SQ776 reaffirms that the state has a right to continue doing what they have been doing.
SQ777 – 60 percent voted no
State question 777 would have prevented lawmakers from passing legislation to regulate broad farming and ranching practices unless there is a compelling state interest. Because this vote failed, legislation about farming practices will continue to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
In order to see the current laws about farming and related practices, the simplest place to go would be the website of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture. http://www.oda.state.ok.us/ogc/laws.htm
SQ779 – 59 percent voted no
State question 779 would have enshrined language into the state constitution that permanently increased the state sales tax by 1 percent. The money collected through the tax would have been allocated so that 69.5 percent would have gone to common education in the form of an increase in teacher pay of $5,000 per person and to “otherwise address and prevent teacher and certified instructional staff shortages,” 19.25 percent to higher education, 8 percent to early childhood education and 3.25 percent to career tech.
Because this vote failed, there will be no constitutionally protected funds for public education and education legislation will continue to be decided upon by state legislators as it was before.
SQ780 – 58 percent voted yes
State question 780 reclassifies some current felony drug possession and property crimes as misdemeanors.
Previously, possession of illegal drugs was a felony according to state law. Now drug possession will be classified as a misdemeanor. Drug manufacturing, trafficking and selling are still felony offenses. The referendum does not specifically discriminate between illegal drugs for which the law applies.
Previously, a theft or forgery of property worth over $500 dollars was considered a felony offense by state law. State Question 780 raised that threshold to $1,000 dollars. This aspect of the law is not new considering that House Bill 2751, which took effect on November 1, 2016, increased the property threshold for felony prosecution from $500 to $1,000. This new property value amount for felony prosecution applies to crimes including embezzlement, bogus checks, fraud, forged instruments, and grand larceny. SQ780 added false declaration of a pawn ticket, receiving or concealing stolen property and taking domesticated fish or game to that list.
It is important to note that a misdemeanor charge can still result in a significant fine and jail time up to one year. SQ780 will take effect on July 1, 2017 and will only apply to new cases brought before the court.
SQ781 – 56 percent voted yes
State question 781 could only go into effect if voters approved Question 780. SQ781 uses the money saved from SQ780 to fund rehabilitative programs including substance abuse and mental health treatment programs.
Under SQ781, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services will determine each yearhow much money was saved by the state prison system because of changes implemented by SQ780. That amount will be divided proportionally to the population of each county and could be claimed by privately-run rehabilitative organizations that provide drug and mental health treatment, job training and education programs.
SQ781 will also take effect on July 1, 2017. Funds for rehabilitative services will be available after the law is in effect for one year.
SQ790 – 57 percent voted no
State question 790 would have allowed the government to use public money or property for the benefit of a religion or religious institution. This is currently against the state constitution which says in Section II-5, “No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.”
SQ790 sought to amend this portion of the constitution. The failure of this question would suggest that Oklahomans do not want government money or property to be used for religious purposes.
SQ792 – 66 percent voted yes
State question 792 changed the laws governing alcohol sales and distribution in the state, including provisions allowing grocery stores and convenience stores to sell refrigerated, full-strength beer and wine seven days a week. Restrictions, licenses and taxes associated with the law will be decided on by state legislators. Restrictions and new licensing requirements will be placed on all manufacturers, brewers and wine-makes operating within the state as well as specific licensing for liquor stores, grocery stores and convenience stores.
According to one report by News OK, victory for SQ792 campaign does not ensure Oklahomans will be able to buy wine and full-strength beer in grocery stores due to plans for a lawsuit by The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma to challenge the constitutionality of the measure.
Bryan Kerr, president of the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma, shared his concern that the law holds liquor stores to additional, stricter standards that regulate everything from how many locations they can operate to what percentage of their sales come from nonalcoholic items.
Reportedly smaller wine and spirit distributors have also said SQ792 will render them unable to compete in the marketplace since the measure gives alcohol manufacturers the right to choose one, exclusive distributor in the state.
The measure will go into effect sometime in 2018, although the exact date seems unclear.