Oklahoma Election 2016: November 2016 Archives

Happy election day! Enjoy your freedom to vote now, before Hillary ships you to a concentration camp or Donald abolishes elections and renames himself Caligula II.


Polls in Oklahoma are open until 7:00 p.m. If you need help finding your polling place, if you'd like to study a sample ballot before you go, the Oklahoma State Election Board has a one-stop-shop online voter tool. Put in your name and date of birth, and they'll look you up in the database, find your polling place and show you a photo of it and a map, will let you see a printable sample ballot, and, if you're voting absentee, it will show you when your ballot arrived at your county election board.

OSEB will have live results available after 7 p.m. Keep in mind that absentee ballots are counted first at the county election board, and then individual precincts bring their scanning ballot boxes to the county election board for processing. Candidates and news outlets who send runners to the precincts to read results posted on the door will have results more quickly than OSEB.

OSEB also has this very handy list of every candidate and every proposition on the 2016 Oklahoma ballot, arranged by county.

Here's my printable cheat sheet for the election.


My thoughts on specific races and questions:

Here's an archive of all of my articles about Election 2016.

Many thanks to the sponsors and supporters of BatesLine who made this year's election coverage possible.

All right, Bob, how 'bout a little music to keep the people happy! Take it away, Leon!

"There'll be cheerin' and hootin' and some friendly shootin' just to keep the spirit of this big occasion."

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys perform "Election Day" by Cindy Walker in the movie Wyoming Hurricane, starring Russell Hayden. Leon McAuliffe on vocals; Cotton Thompson, Bob Wills, and Jesse Ashlock on fiddle, Junior Barnard on guitar, Luke Wills on bass. And from the same movie, here's Cotton Thompson to deliver Cindy Walker's message for many of our candidates:

I hear you talkin', yes, I do,
But your talk-talk-talkin' don't ring true,
I'm listenin' politely, too,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

I hear you talkin', tellin' lies,
I can see it in those great big eyes.
I hear you talkin' wise,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.

You say that I'm your honey-love,
That I'm all you're thinkin' of,
I hear you talkin', dove,
But you ain't been foolin' me.

I almost left the top line of my ballot blank.

When I was filling out my absentee ballot, I left the presidential race until the last. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton nor Gary Johnson -- our only three choices in Oklahoma -- are fit to serve as president of the United States. Trump says some things that are pleasing to conservative ears, but his livelihood was built on saying one thing to close a deal and then doing another, leaving him sitting pretty and his business partners in the lurch. Clinton is utterly venal and corrupt, selling American foreign policy to the highest bidder, with the money laundered through the family's "foundation," and setting up a private email server, putting American secrets at risk, in order to hide her corruption from the reach of open-records laws. Johnson is a buffoon, a fake libertarian who sees no problem with the State punishing small-business owners who wish to run their businesses in accordance with the understanding of marriage that was near-universal just a decade ago. I'm frightened by how triumphant Trump or victorious Clinton might use their new power to punish their adversaries; both are vengeful and egotistical. I'm disturbed by the willingness of many conservatives to shift their positions and lower their standards in order to justify their support for Trump -- not merely holding their noses and voting for him, which is understandable, but enthusiastically embracing him.

I had pondered voting for Johnson anyway, as a protest vote, but Josh Lewis, writing at SavingElephantsBlog.com, talked me out of it, pointing out that giving the Libertarian Party, particularly in its current state, a permanent foothold in Oklahoma will only cause more problems for electing conservatives:

Suffice it to say for now, I am a conservative and recognize libertarianism as a competing ideology. A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote that will ultimately strengthen the libertarian brand. If you're an ideological libertarian this makes sense. But if you're only casting a "protest vote" it may have dangerous unintended consequences.

So I was going to leave the ballot bank, but as I stared at the space on the ballot, I looked at the three lists of seven names under the names of the presidential and vice presidential nominees:

  • Republican: David Oldham, Teresa Turner, Mark Thomas, Bobby Cleveland, Lauree Elizabeth Marshall, Charles W. Potts, George W. Wiland, Jr.
  • Libertarian: Erin Adams, Mikel Dillon, Joel Britt Dixon, Rex L Lawhorn, Ephriam Zachary Knight, Craig A. Dawkins, Mark C. DeShazo.
  • Democrat: Marq Lewis, Bill John Baker, Mark Hammons, Betty McElderry, W. A. Drew Edmondson, Jeannie McDaniel, Rhonda Walters.

These are the people we're voting for today: One set of seven who will meet in Oklahoma City in December and cast the only votes any Oklahoman will cast for President and Vice President of the United States.

I'm under no illusions: Each of these people were selected by district and state conventions because of their loyalty to their party. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, they will be voting for the names above theirs on the ballot, which will lead either to a Trump-flavored catastrophe or a Clinton-flavored catastrophe.

ayatollah_edmondson_small.jpgBut what if no candidate appears to have won a majority of electoral votes? What if Utah goes for Evan McMillan, enough to hold Clinton and Trump short of 270? What if there finally emerges a scandal serious enough to chase Donald or Hillary into exile in Irian Jaya? What if (heaven forbid) one or both of the aged main-party candidates suffers a debilitating accident or health emergency? Would it still make no difference which set of seven electors are chosen by Oklahoma voters?

Under those unlikely circumstances, it would make a great deal of difference. I know many of the people running for elector, and I would trust David Oldham, Bobby Cleveland, and George Wiland to make a decision in the best interest of the nation. I would not trust Craig Dawkins, or Jeannie McDaniel, or Drew Edmondson, the former Ayatollah General.

It's taken me more time to describe my thought process than it took me to come to that conclusion. I had to decide to leave the race blank or mark it, seal up the ballot, get the affidavit notarized, mail it, and get on with trip preparations. I voted for George, David, Bobby, Mark, Teresa, Lauree, and Charles.

There are three contested county offices on the Tulsa County ballot. Republican Josh Turley seeks to defeat incumbent Democrat Commissioner Karen Keith in County Commission District 2. Republican Don Newberry and Democrat John R. Andrew are vying for the Court Clerk position, left open by the retirement of Sally Howe Smith. Republican Sheriff Vic Regalado and Democrat Rex Berry are in a rematch of the April special election to replace Stanley Glanz.

A recent, seemingly unrelated news item raised an issue that should be considered by Tulsa County voters tomorrow. State bond adviser Jim Joseph and State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones spoke out against the widespread practice of school districts waiving competitive bids for bond issues.

Oklahoma school districts are spending millions of taxpayers' dollars every year by paying high fees for financial advisers, bond counsel and underwriters, says Jim Joseph, the state's bond adviser.

Many school districts continue to do the same thing year after year, while stubbornly refusing to use cost-saving competitive selection measures, he said.

"It's like picking a roofer right after a storm because he's the first guy who came to your door," Joseph said. "You're not going to get a deal, that's for sure."

State Auditor Gary Jones agreed school boards could save Oklahoma taxpayers money by obtaining competitive quotes.

"There could be tens of millions of dollars saved over a short period of time," Jones said.

Joseph went on to compare the massive fees paid by school districts to bond counsel and financial advisers, often a percentage of the bond issue, with the smaller amounts state agencies paid for much larger bond issue. Several were listed; here's one example:

For example, Midwest City-Del City Public Schools did a $72.62 million bond issue in 2012 without competitive bids. It paid the Floyd Law Firm of Norman $363,100 for serving as bond counsel and allowed Stephen H. McDonald & Associates and BOSC Inc., a subsidiary of BOK Financial Corporation, to equally split $508,340 for serving as co-financial advisers, records show.

Compare that with a $310.48 million bond issue by the Grand River Dam Authority that was done in 2014 through a competitive process. The state paid a $114,000 bond counsel fee and a $133,448 financial adviser fee.

Although the Grand River Dam Authority bond issue was more than four times as large as the Midwest City-Del City school bond issue, the school district paid more than triple the amount in bond counsel and financial adviser fees, records show.

Joseph pointed out that bond counsel, underwriter, and financial advisers often each take 1% of the bond issue as their fee, which Joseph says "makes no sense at all. It doesn't take any more work to do a $20 million issue than a $10 million issue for the bond counsel and financial adviser, but the fee is twice as high, if payment is on a percentage basis."

What does this have to do with Tulsa County? Joseph noted that the firm of Hilborne & Weidman was frequently listed as bond counsel for these competition-waived bond issues. Hilborne & Weidman was also one of two bond counsel firms selected in 2003 by the Tulsa County commissioners (acting as the Tulsa County Industrial Authority) for the Vision 2025 revenue bonds, a massive bond issue against up to all 13 years of the new sales tax. I urged at the time that Tulsa County put all Vision 2025 bond-related contracts up for competitive bid, as commissioners haggled publicly over which firms would get a piece of the action, but they waived competitive bidding and split the baby, giving each favored firm half of the business.

Over the last 13 years, there's been a complete turnover on the County Commission, but the tradition of waiving competitive bidding has persisted. Here's one example from May 26, 2009, in Karen Keith's first year as a commissioner ($110 million in bonds), another from February 1, 2010.

On May 23, 2016, the commissioners, including Karen Keith, voted unanimously to waive competitive bidding on indebtedness, but neither the minutes nor the agenda explain the amount or nature of the indebtedness. Given the proximity to the April 2016 Vision Tulsa vote, my guess is that the vote was on the revenue bonds pledged against that new 15-year sales tax stream.

How many more projects might have been built if Vision 2025 bonds had been competitively bid? Could we have had a new juvenile justice facility without being asked for more tax dollars in two separate elections? (And it still hasn't been built! Karen Keith has been in office eight years, and we're still waiting.)

Given the size of these bond issues, even a 1% fee would be a huge amount for a small firm. The temptation to corruption would be immense. Think of the money the former Skiatook superintendent got in kickbacks from the janitorial supply company. That would be chump change compared to even a small cut of 1% of a $500 million bond issue.

Oklahoma taxpayers need legislation to require competitive bidding on bonds and to require counties, school districts, and cities -- and their associated Title 60 trusts -- to use the state bond adviser rather than hiring their own favored exclusive firms. Until we get that legislation, we need county officials who will support transparency and fiscal prudence. Josh Turley and Don Newberry, both good men with long years' experience as county employees, will provide that kind of leadership, and I hope Tulsa County voters elect them both.

As for the sheriff's race, I've voiced my concern with the pattern of funding Regalado received in the special election primary and even more concern with the way he responded to the charges. He seems to have settled down and done a reasonable job of setting TCSO on a better course, away from last year's scandals. Rex Berry is way out in left field; we don't need someone like him as sheriff. I'm voting for Regalado.

Three Tulsa City Council seats made it to the general election. As the current City Council has been a complete disaster, backing a massive increase in the permanent sales tax, shutting down Riverside Drive for two years, and imposing their radical left-wing theories of gender and sexuality on the property owners of our city, I don't want any of them to be re-elected.

I was sad to see Jack Henderson work against the interests of District 1 by backing the regressive sales tax for dams in the Arkansas River. Burdening Tulsa's poorest neighborhoods with higher taxes so residents of our wealthier neighborhoods can look at water in the river is unjust, and the Jack Henderson I thought I knew used to understand that. Vanessa Hall-Harper does understand that. She stood against the dam sales tax. While I would never expect a conservative to win District 1, we can at least hope for a city councilor who wants to help her constituents to conserve their own hard-earned funds.

Jeannie Cue, the incumbent in District 2, has been a big disappointment for the aforementioned reasons. But the only thing I've been able to find out about her opponent, Aaron Bisogno, is that he really loves Star Wars. No endorsement in District.

In District 9, Ben Kimbro has the endorsement of the Tulsa Regional Chamber and a bunch of current city councilors. Clearly, we need someone different.

Eric McCray owns a small heat and air company, and he wants to see the reopening of Riverside Drive fast-tracked. He also has some sensible thoughts on the blighted sections of District 9:

Shutting down Riverside for 2 years with no end in sight is unacceptable.

We can make opening Riverside for commuters a priority and fast track the reopening date.

Tulsa commuters should not have to endure multiple, simultaneous road projects which shut down traffic all over the city. We should not see roads shut down with nobody present working on the projects. Crews should focus on a project 24/7 until it is completed and then move to the next. There is a management issue with the roads in Tulsa, and I aim to fix it.

Government assistance programs tend to fund the crime problem in our District. If you don't have to work for your food or housing, you likely have the time and entitlement mentality to commit crime. We have had one of the highest crime spots in all of Tulsa at 61st and Peoria. It is no coincidence that it is located near the swath of government assistance housing. It is not merely a poverty problem--I will work with law enforcement officials, community leaders, and business owners to determine the best way to deter crime from our District while promoting and bringing business to District 9. Let's change the reputation on this side of town.

Two State Supreme Court justices, two judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals, and three judges on the Court of Civil Appeals are before the voters for retention. If any of the judges get more no votes than yes votes, he or she will be out of office, and a replacement will be appointed by the usual process.

Ordinarily, a third Supreme Court seat would be on the ballot, but Justice Steven Taylor announced his retirement at the end of the year. There's no need to vote on retaining someone who is stepping down.

In going back through some controversial decisions over the last few years, I find a mixed record. Justice Douglas Combs was alone in rightly parsing law and precedent regarding the Ten Commandments monument, understanding that something can be religious without being sectarian, and noting that his colleagues rejected precedent in Meyer v. Oklahoma City (a 50-foot cross on the State Fairgrounds, lit by city-funded lights) without explicitly overturning it.

Justices James Winchester and Taylor were the only ones to see the problem with the State Supreme Court crossing a constitutional boundary to get involved in a criminal matter in the Clayton Lockett botched-execution case. (In Oklahoma's split appellate system, criminal appeals go to the Court of Criminal Appeals, but no further; civil appeals go to a panel of the Court of Civil Appeals, from which a decision may be appealed to the State Supreme Court.) Winchester also joined Taylor in correctly labelling SQ 779 as logrolling in violation of Article XXIV, Section 1, of the Constitution of Oklahoma and in approving the clear ballot titles written by the Attorney General for SQ 780 and 781. Justice Combs was on the wrong side of these decisions. In my browsing through recent decisions, I found that often Winchester stood with Taylor on the right, but minority, side of an issue.

But Justice Winchester was the lone dissenter (without explanation) from a decision that affirmed that a county assessor could hire legal representation of his choosing in the pursuit of his duties.

Tony Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life notes the Supreme Court justices' hostility to pro-life laws, interpreting the "right" to an abortion much more expansively than the federal courts:

Regarding the Retention Ballot for Oklahoma Supreme Court justices, please note that the members of the Oklahoma Supreme Court - including those on the Retention Ballot - have repeatedly, arbitrarily, relentlessly handed down pro-abortion rulings. They even killed a pro-life law which would have promoted ultrasounds, even though a federal appeals court upheld a very similar law from Texas. A mother who sees an ultrasound of her baby is much less likely to have an abortion. Babies are dying every day in Oklahoma because the state Supreme Court struck down this law.

Our state Supreme Court is so notoriously pro-abortion that when the abortion industry challenges a pro-life law, they file suit in state court rather than federal court, because our Oklahoma Supreme Court is more pro-abortion than the federal courts.

The unanimous 9-0 decision by the court to block SQ 782, a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution banning abortion, created a chicken-and-egg problem. The state supremes cited Planned Parenthood v. Casey, saying that the U. S. Supreme Court's ruling is definitive until they overturn it. But SCOTUS won't overturn a ruling until a case reaches it, and that can't happen until a state passes a law in contradiction to it, the state enforces it, someone sues, and the case percolates up the Federal court hierarchy. Burns v. Cline, 2016 OK 99, is another example of the problem. Treating SCOTUS, and not the Constitution itself, sovereign is reason enough to boot out every single state justice.

Among the appellate judges up for retention, Judge Tom Thornbrugh was "called up" on the SQ 779 logrolling case to fill the shoes of a Supreme Court justice who had to recuse. Thornbrugh took the wrong position, voting with the majority that turned a blind eye to the proposition's obvious violation of the single-subject rule.

Of the judges on the retention ballot, Winchester was appointed by Rep. Gov. Frank Keating; Combs, Smith, and Fischer were appointed by Dem. Gov. Brad Henry; Joplin was appointed by Dem. Gov. David Walters; and Thornbrugh and Hudson were appointed by Rep. Gov. Mary Fallin. (See the Oklahoma Supreme Court handbook for 2015 for further biographical information.

Recently on Talk Radio 1170 KFAQ, Pat Campbell hosted a discussion on Oklahoma State Questions 780 and 781 with former State House Speaker Kris Steele, a proponent of the propositions, and Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, who opposes them.

The more I listened to Steele's arguments in favor, the more confirmed I became in my opposition to Oklahoma State Question 780. To hear Steele talk, you'd think that drug addiction is something you get because the barista at Charbux forgot to wash his hands after sneezing. But common sense says that there's a volitional aspect to drug use and addiction, and penalties for possession may deter people from seeking to self-medicate in ways that are hard to cure.

Kunzweiler pointed out that sometimes drug possession is the only charge for which enough direct evidence exists to convict a suspected drug dealer. Prosecutors are happy to send addicts through drug court to help them deal with their problem instead of going to jail, but they need the statutory tools to go after the pushers. Making every instance of possession of every kind of controlled substance a misdemeanor takes a very effective tool away from prosecutors.

In a November 1, 2016, speech to pastors in Tulsa, U. S. Senator James Lankford likened Article II, Section 5, of the Oklahoma Constitution to a latent computer virus. Lankford warned that unless Oklahomans repeal that section by passing SQ 790, anti-religion litigants will be able to use the provision to block any partnership between state and local government and faith-based organizations in areas like foster care, adoption services, hospitals, and care for the homeless.

While I could take issue with the details of his recounting of the history of the Blaine Amendment and similar provisions in state constitutions, it is true that many of the enabling acts for new states required such provisions to be included in state constitutions, and it's also true that anti-Catholic-immigrant fear motivated the effort.

More importantly, Lankford's warning about the future in Oklahoma is spot on. The language in Article II, Section 5, prohibits even an indirect benefit to a sectarian institution from use of state funds or assets. While there are now a couple of precedents, one very recent -- Murrow Indian Orphans Home v. Childers (1946 OK 187) and Oliver v. Hofmeister (2016 OK 15) -- that seem to allow state payments to a religious institution if the state is being relieved of some financial obligation in return, there were grounds in the plain meaning of the words of Article II, Section 5, to rule the other way.

Oklahoma citizens benefit when organizations, driven by faith in the God who created us for good works, care for the needy. It reduces the burden on taxpayers when staff and clergy funded by church members join with volunteers to meet these needs. But the only way to ensure that this beneficial relationship can survive a future court challenge is to pass SQ 790 to eliminate an overly broad and inconsistently interpreted provision in our State Constitution.

Sen. Lankford is up for re-election, and if you appreciate the foresight and eloquence he applied to this issue, you'll want to join me in voting to send him back to Washington for a full six-year term.


For your convenience, here is a summary of my recommendations for the seven state questions on the 2016 Oklahoma general election ballot. The descriptions are not meant to make my entire argument in three words; they simply serve as a reminder of the topic of the question. The right-hand column contains a couple of words to describe the type of question: Whether the question affects the Constitution or state statutes, and whether it was initiated by the legislature or by initiative petition. Links lead to the article in which I discuss the question at length:

SQ 776 YES Death penalty protection Constitutional, legislative
SQ 777 NO "Right to Farm" amendment Constitutional, legislative
SQ 779 NO Permanent sales tax for schools, colleges, career tech Constitutional, initiative
SQ 780 NO Drug possession always a misdemeanor Statutory, initiative
SQ 781 NO SQ 780 "savings" fund Statutory, initiative
SQ 790 YES Repeal anti-1st Amendment language in Oklahoma constitution Constitutional, legislative
SQ 792 NO Replace bad alcohol laws with worse alcohol laws Constitutional, legislative

Oklahoma State Question 792 is a legislative referendum to amend the State Constitution. It would repeal almost all of Article XXVIII (all but the section that repealed article XXVII) and replace it with a new and much longer Article XXVIII A. Click the link to read the complete text of the new amendment. See for yourself how ridiculously complicated it is. It goes into great detail about the permitted relationships between wholesalers and retailers. It writes into the state constitution provisions that properly belong, in statute if anywhere. Some who have analyzed the bill say that it unduly favors out-of-state supermarket chains at the expense of locally-owned businesses and large breweries at the expense of small.

I would love to see our state's liquor laws simplified and made rational. It has never made sense to me that you can buy shots of tequila at a bar at 1:30 a.m. (to be followed by a shaky drive home), but you cannot, at that same hour, buy a bottle of wine to drink safely at home. It doesn't make sense that there has to be a middleman -- a wholesale distributor -- in between the makers of beer, wine, and spirits and the retailer or consumer. I like Fat Tire beer and would love to be able to buy it in Oklahoma. If liquor stores can import beer from Belgium and Japan in Oklahoma, why can't retailers import Yuengling from Pennsylvania?

If you take nothing else from this article, realize that the changes won't go into effect until October 1, 2018. You will have to wait almost two years to buy strong beer and wine at QT.

You may as well wait a few weeks more to get the right kind of change -- a change that would clear away the existing constitutional amendment and replace it with the minimum necessary language to set the extent to which the state, counties, and municipalities can regulate the sale of alcohol. Leave the rest to statute. (Even things like drinking age and hours of operation.) If SQ 792 fails, we can vote on a cleaner question in November of 2018 and have it go into immediate effect. In the meantime, the legislature can cue up any statutory language that we'd want to have in place when the old amendment is cleared away.

I urge you to vote NO -- AGAINST SQ 792.

Oklahoma SQ 781 is a companion to SQ 780, proposed by the same people. It will not go into effect unless SQ 780 is passed. Like SQ 780, SQ 781 is statutory.

The proposal creates new law in Title 57. It establishes a revolving fund called the County Community Safety Investment Fund, directs the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to calculate the money saved by implementation of SQ 780, requires that that amount of money be added to the fund each year, and allows that money to be spent "for the sole purpose of providing funds to counties to provide community rehabilitative programming, including but not limited to mental health and substance abuse services. Funds shall be disbursed in proportion to county population, as reported in the most recent census."

Even if you decide to vote for SQ 780, I urge you to vote NO, AGAINST SQ 781. We already have too many earmarked funds and revenue streams, which means that certain state and local institutions are on the gravy train while others live on bread and water. If SQ 780 passes and manages to save money, the legislature should have the discretion to distribute it as needed. SQ 781 looks suspiciously like a lobbyist-inspired effort to put money in pockets of companies ready to provide the services on which the fund created by SQ 781 must be exclusively expended.

UPDATED 2016/11/02: Having completed my analysis of all 23 sections of the SQ 780 legislation, I have revised the introductory text below to provide a better summary of the affect of passing the state question.

Oklahoma State Question 780 began life as an initiative petition.

Unlike most state questions, its passage will not modify the Constitution. If it passes, SQ 780 will be like the legislature passing a bill. The constitutional power of initiative gives citizens of Oklahoma or any of its political subdivisions the power to legislate in the same way as the corresponding legislative body. City of Tulsa voters could modify the zoning code by putting an initiative petition on the ballot and voting to approve it. State voters can pass state statutes by approving an initiative petition at the polls. I don't know if this has ever happened, but I suppose residents of a school board district could use the initiative power to fire a superintendent or take any other action the school board is empowered to make. The power of initiative exists in recognition that good legislation can at times get clogged up in the politics of the legislature, that legislators can sometimes see themselves (and their lobbyist pals) as an "us" and their constituents as "them." An initiative petition provides a bypass to the obstruction.

In this case, the initiative petition provided a spur to action to the legislature. As you'll see in the section-by-section analysis after the jump, twelve of the 19 sections of statute affected by SQ 780 were modified this year by HB 2751, which passed both houses by wide margins and was signed into law while the SQ 780 petition was being circulated. The bill, like SQ 790, modified the value threshold at which a crime involving theft, fraud, embezzlement, and the like is considered a felony. You can read HB 2751 and see what was added and deleted.

Signature thresholds for statutory initiatives are much lower than for proposed constitutional amendments. Eight percent (8%) of the vote total in the last governor's election (65,987) is enough to put a statutory initiative on the ballot. (15% is required for constitutional initiatives.)

SQ 780 amends 19 different sections in three separate titles of Oklahoma law, affecting penalties and definitions for crimes involving controlled substances, larceny, embezzlement, forgery, and counterfeiting, and affecting penalties for second and subsequent offences. The link, which leads to the Secretary of State's file on SQ 780, shows the text of those sections of the Oklahoma statutes as they would be if SQ 780 passes, and also contains the record of the dispute over the wording of the ballot title for this complex piece of legislation.

When you eliminate the minor differences between HB 2751, which is now in effect, and SQ 780, what's left is one very big, very contentious issue, which hasn't received the attention it deserves -- how should we should deal with drug possession. SQ 780 should have been challenged for violating the single-subject rule -- logrolling popular common-sense ideas like raising the threshold for considering a property crime as a felony with more controversial and divisive issues. When the legislature approved HB 2751, they cleared away the fog and effectively reduced SQ 780 to this question: Should all drug possession crimes be classified as misdemeanors, regardless of the type of drug involve and regardless of the proximity to schools and children?

While there may be a case for lightening penalties, particularly for first offenses, I believe this proposal goes too far. I recommend voting NO -- AGAINST SQ 780.

Now for the details.

Sections 1 and 2 of the proposition sets out the rationale and gives the proposal a name, but it wouldn't be codified into law:

SECTION 1: The people of the state of Oklahoma find the fact that Oklahoma has the second-highest overall incarceration rate in the country, and the highest incarceration rate for women, is inconsistent with Oklahoma values, and drains resources away from investments that can do more to promote public safety. Therefore, the people intend, in enacting this initiative measure, to implement criminal justice reforms that: (l) stop wasting taxpayer money keeping people who commit low-level offenses behind bars for years; and (2) saddle fewer people who commit low-level offenses with felony convictions that will follow them through life and prevent them from getting an education or a job.

SECTION 2. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Oklahoma Smart Justice
Reform Act."

The next 18 sections are amendatory. If you've looked at Oklahoma legislation online, you know that amended law is always shown as a markup -- deleted text stricken through, added text underlined. It makes it easy to see exactly what is changing. It would have been nice for the voters if that had been done by the proponents, but since it wasn't, I will do that here, but after the jump to keep clutter off of the home page. (If you'd like to show your appreciation for my diligent effort, which took me about eight hours to complete, there are a variety of ways you can do so.)

Section 21 repeals 21 O. S. 51.3, which reads:

Every person who, having been convicted of petit larceny, or of an attempt to commit an offense which if perpetrated, would be punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary, commits any crime after such conviction, is punishable as follows:

1. If such subsequent offense is such that upon a first conviction the offender would be punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for life, such person is punishable by imprisonment in such prison for life.

2. If such subsequent offense is such that upon first conviction the offender would be punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for any term less than for life, such person is punishable by imprisonment in such prison for the longest term prescribed upon a conviction for such first offense.

3. If such subsequent conviction is for petit larceny, or for any attempt to commit an offense, which, if perpetrated, would be punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary, then such person is punishable by imprisonment in such prison for a term not exceeding five (5) years.

Section 22 is a severability clause, allowing the remainder of the legislation to go into effect even if part of it is overturned in court. Section 23 sets an effective date of July 1, 2017.

Details after the jump.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Election 2016 category from November 2016.

Oklahoma Election 2016: October 2016 is the previous archive.

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