The Muskogee Phoenix printed a list of the state questions for the 2010 General Election here in Oklahoma. I have that list reproduced here, with my vote, and my commentary and questions.
The “Legislative Referendum” questions are those that the state Legislature punted to the voters.
This post is completed on 06 Sep 2010.
STATE QUESTION NO. 744
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 391
The measure repeals a section of the State Constitution. The repealed section required the Legislature annually to spend $42.00 for each common school student. Common schools offer pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade.
The measure also adds a new Article to the Constitution. It sets a minimum average amount the State must annually spend on common schools. It requires the State to spend annually, no less than the average amount spent on each student by the surrounding states. Those surrounding states are Missouri, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Colorado and New Mexico. When the average amount spent by surrounding states declines, Oklahoma must spend the amount it spent the year before.
The measure deals with money spent on day-to-day operations of the schools and school districts. This includes spending on instructions, support services and non-instruction services. The measure does not deal with money spent to pay debt, on buildings or on other capital needs.
The measure requires that increased spending begin in the first fiscal year after its passage. It requires that the surrounding state average be met in the third fiscal year after passage.
The measure does not raise taxes, nor does it provide new funding for the new spending requirements.
This is a tough one. On the one hand, our spending per student is bad – we are always in the lower couple states in terms of how much we spend per student. On the other hand, I think that new buildings and technology don’t necessarily help the educational process.
More money could mean higher standards, or it could mean paying teachers more, or paying certain high-performing teachers more (merit pay).
One downside is that since it would be in the State Constitution, the Legislation would be forced to fund education per the formula in the bill.
So I would prefer a non-political compromise. How about a State Commission to work out the funding requirements based on curriculum requirements set by the State Department of Education, and then approved or rejected in whole by the Legislature. The Commission would be non-partisan. The Legislature would be required to appropriate what the Commission came up with. This would take politics out of the picture.
So I am going to vote NO on this measure as it is too blunt an instrument. But I would not be unhappy if it passed, either.
And I may end up changing my mind, depending on how much the state Republicans are jerks during the remainder of the campaign.
STATE QUESTION NO. 746
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 347
This measure amends statutes relating to voting requirements. It requires that each person appearing to vote present a document proving their identity. The document must meet the following requirements. It must have the name and photograph of the voter. It must have been issued by the federal, state or tribal government. It must have an expiration date that is after the date of the election. No expiration date would be required on certain identity cards issued to person 65 years of age or older.
In lieu of such a document, voters could present voter identification cards issued by the County Election Board.
A person who cannot or does not present the required identification may sign a sworn statement and cast a provisional ballot. Swearing to a false statement would be a felony.
These proof of identity requirements also apply to in-person absentee voting. If adopted by the people, the measure would become effective July 1, 2011.
I am of a couple minds about this. First, I approve of keeping our voting process clean. However, every requirement that is levied reduces the number of voters. I have heard of numerous studies that state that requiring an ID check would suppress voting, and further suppress minority and poor voters in a disproportionate amount. This is bad. It also would tend to suppress Democrat voters more than Republicans.
So, until there is proof that voter fraud is taking place, an ID requirement hurts the election process more than it improves it.
As such, my vote for this Question is NO.
So my counter-proposal would be this: put in place at every precinct a report of instances of apparent voter fraud. For example, when I go to vote, if someone has already marked out my name (you have to sign on the voter roll in Oklahoma by your name), then a report is made. If the number of reports for that precinct would impact the election results, then the election is done over, with a full investigation to find the people voting illegally.
This to me is in line with the idea of liberty. ID requirements are inherently based on the theory that you are
not who you say you are, and so are very much guilty-must-be-proven-innocent. Voting should be as open to the population as is possible, so anything that lets fewer people vote is bad. If there is a problem, then the police can investigate and find the problem.
STATE QUESTION NO. 747
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 348
This measure amends Sections 4 and 23 of Articles 6 and Section 15 of Article 9 of the State Constitution. It limits the ability of voters to re-elect statewide elected officers by limiting how many years those officers can serve. It limits the number of years a person may serve in each statewide elected office. Service as Governor is limited to eight years. Service as Lieutenant Governor is limited to eight years. Service as Attorney General is limited to eight years. Service as Treasurer is limited to eight years. Service as Commissioner of Labor is limited to eight years. Service as Auditor and Inspector is limited to eight years. Service as Superintendent of Public Instruction is limited to eight years. Service as a Corporation Commissioner is limited to twelve years.
Service for less than a full term would not count against the limit on service. Years of service need not be consecutive for the limits to apply.
Officers serving when this measure is passed can complete their terms. All such serving officers, except the Governor, can also serve an additional eight or twelve years.
I am for term limits in general. I do not think that term limits should apply to higher judiciary, though.
I will vote Yes on this measure.
STATE QUESTION NO. 748
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 349
This measure amends Sections 11A and 11B of Article 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution. These provisions deal with how the Legislature is divided into districts. This process is known as apportionment. The Legislature must make an apportionment after each ten-year federal census. If the Legislature fails to act, an Apportionment Commission must do so. The measure changes the name of this Commission. It removes all three existing Commission members. It removes the Attorney General. It removes the Superintendent of Public Instruction. It also removes the State Treasurer.
The measure increases the number of members from three to seven. The President Pro Tempore of the Senate appoints one Democrat and one Republican. The Speaker of the House of Representatives appoints one Democrat and one Republican. The Governor appoints one Democrat and one Republican.
The measure provides that the Lieutenant Governor chairs the Commission and is a non-voting member. It requires orders of apportionment to be signed by at least four members of the Commission.
I think that the apportionment process should be quite mechanical. It ought to work something like this: Take all of the counties in the state and add up their populations. Divide by the number of representatives we are allowed; that would be the target X. Start in the northwest corner of the state, and start moving diagonally to the SE. When the added population of the counties reaches X, that would be the 1st District. Keep moving SE until the population reaches X again, those counties are District 2. Keep going until the last county is reached. The numbers would not be equal, but the process would be fair. There are other ways to do this that are equally fair, but the key thing is that it is a process that any person in the state could duplicate, and it would be politically fair.
Regardless, we currently have people doing the apportionment. This proposal evens the process out, and seems to be fair. So I am going to vote YES on this.
My one comment is that the process is oriented to a two-party system. I think that we need more political parties in general that have power to do stuff; I think that would motivate both the “big” parties (the Republicans in particular) to be a bit more motivated to bend a bit to serve all Oklahomans.
STATE QUESTION NO. 750
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 350
This measure amends a section of the State Constitution. The section deals with initiative petitions. It also deals with referendum petitions. It deals with how many signatures are required on such petitions. It changes that requirement.
“Initiative” is the right to propose laws and constitutional amendments.
“Referendum” is the right to reject a law passed by the Legislature.
The following voter signature requirements apply.
8% must sign to propose law.
15% must sign to propose to change the State Constitution.
5% must sign to order a referendum.
These percentages are based upon the State office receiving the most total votes at the last General Election. The measure changes this basis. The measure’s basis uses every other General Election. General Elections are held every two years. The Governor is on the ballot every four years. The measure’s basis only uses General Elections with the Governor on the ballot.
The President is on the ballot in intervening General Elections. The measure’s basis does not use General Elections with the President on the ballot.
More votes are usually cast at Presidential General Elections. Thus, the measure would generally have a lowering effect on the number of required signatures.
This sounds reasonable, so I plan on voting YES on it.
STATE QUESTION NO. 751
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 351
This measure amends the State Constitution. It adds a new Article to the Constitution. That Article deals with the State’s official actions. It dictates the language to be used in taking official State action. It requires that official State actions be in English. Native American languages could also be used. When Federal law requires, other languages could also be used.
These language requirements apply to the State’s “official actions.” The term “official actions” is not defined. The legislature could pass laws determining the application of the language requirements. The Legislature would also pass laws implementing and enforcing the language requirements.
No lawsuit based on State law could be brought on the basis of a State agency’s failure to use a language other than English. Nor could such a lawsuit be brought against political subdivisions of the State.
This is an easy one – vote NO. This is a result of xenophobes like Randy Terrill, who seems to have a deep-seated hatred or fear of anyone who is not European and light-skinned.
The march of history will result in all of us communicating in different languages, including Spanish. Deal with it.
STATE QUESTION NO. 752
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 352
This measure amends a section of the Oklahoma Constitution. It amends Section 3 of Article 7-B. The measure deals with the Judicial Nomination Commission. This Commission selects nominees to be appointed judges or justices, when a vacancy occurs. The Commission selects three, sometimes four, qualified nominees. The Governor must appoint one of the nominees.
The amendment adds two at-large members to the Commission. At-large members can come from any Oklahoma congressional district. The Senate President Pro Tempore appoints one of the new at-large members. The Speaker of the House of Representatives appoints the other. At-large members cannot be lawyers. Nor can they have a lawyer in their immediate family. Nor can more than two at-large members be from the same political party.
Six non-at-large members are appointed by the Governor. They cannot be Oklahoma lawyers. The measure adds a new qualification for non-lawyer members. They cannot have a lawyer from any state in their immediate family. Each congressional district must have at least one non-lawyer member.
Six lawyer members are elected by members of the Oklahoma Bar Association. Each congressional district must have a least one lawyer member.
This is reasonable, so I will vote YES on it.
STATE QUESTION NO. 754
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 354
This measure adds a new section to the Oklahoma Constitution. It adds Section 55A to Article 5. The Legislature designates amounts of money to be used for certain functions. These designations are called appropriations. The measure deals with the appropriation process.
The measure limits how the Constitution could control that process. Under the measure the Constitution could not require the Legislature to fund state functions based on:
1. Predetermined constitutional formulas,
2. How much other states spend on a function,
3. How much any entity spends on a function.
Under the measure these limits on the Constitution’s power to control appropriations would apply even if:
1. A later constitutional amendment changed the Constitution, or
2. A constitutional amendment to the contrary was passed at the same time as this measure.
Thus, under the measure, once adopted, the measure could not be effectively amended. Nor could it be repealed.
This was put on the ballot by the Republican-controlled Oklahoma Legislature of 2010. It was intended to override SQ 744 should it become law.
Now, I am not really in favor of the Legislature trying to back-door the people of Oklahoma. So, I am voting NO on this measure.
STATE QUESTION NO. 755
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 355
This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.
International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.
The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.
Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.
This, I think, should be entitled the “Hatred of Islam Act”. Or how about the “We Are Small Minded Isolationist Idiots Act”?
The general problem with this is that it tries to keep Oklahoma from being part of the greater United States. I suspect that this is another one that the hacks in the Legislature knew would not be passed, since it is invalid on its face. Oklahoma is obliged under the United States Constitution to follow federal law, and that includes treaties. I am not a lawyer, but it seems I remember that it is routine in some cases for courts to cite case law from other countries (maritime law, IIRC, as one example).
So, one improvement I could make here. The United States Constitution (which flows down to the Oklahoma Constitution) forbids making any law “respecting an establishment of religion”. So if this Question were modified to require courts from using ANY religious law, that would be an improvement, and would be legal at that level. That would also help to overturn all of the christian-based stuff that plagues us, including blue laws, keeping businesses a certain distance away from churches, and the like.
But the Question is not Constitutional in the slightest, so I’m voting NO.
STATE QUESTION NO. 756
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 356
This measure adds a new section of law to the State Constitution. It adds Section 37 to Article 2. It defines “health care system.” It prohibits making a person participate in a health care system. It prohibits making an employer participate in a health care system. It prohibits making a health care provider provide treatment in a health care system. It allows persons and employees to pay for treatment directly. It allows a health care provider to accept payment for treatment directly. It allows the purchase of health care insurance in private health care systems. It allows the sale of health insurance in private health care systems.
This is an anti-Obama referendum that some of the Republicans in the Legislature put on the ballot to trash the health insurance reform initiative. I am pretty sure that this is un-Constitutional due to the supremacy of
federal law over state law. As such, I am voting NO on this question. I suspect that the anti-Obama Republicans knew that this was the case, and that’s why they did not try to make it law through the Legislature.
STATE QUESTION NO. 757
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 357
This measure amends the State Constitution. It amends Section 23 of Article 10. It increases the amount of surplus revenue which goes into a special fund. That fund is the Constitutional Reserve Fund. The amount would go from 10% to 15% of the funds certified as going to the General Revenue fund for the preceding fiscal year.
This is pretty straightforward, and I think we should all, including the Government, have some savings.
I would only add to this by requiring that some part of the savings also go to purchasing Oklahoma Bonds back and reducing the state debt. Maybe next time.
That is all of the questions for this election.