Jamison Faught

It appears that State Senate candidate Kimberly Fobbs is attempting to fool voters in Senate District 33 by using signs like pictured above. Some voters will probably assume that Fobbs is a Republican. That’s not the case; she’s a proud Democrat, and i…

 Voters’ Guide to Ballot Measures

A product of the populist era, the Oklahoma Constitution establishes processes for direct democracy. On the November 2016 general election ballot, Oklahoma voters will decide whether to adopt four constitutional amendments and three changes to state statutes.

Some of these measures are as simple as restating current law. Others would make complex regulatory changes or change legal standards in future lawsuits. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs does not support or oppose ballot measures. To help voters, we are providing accurate descriptions and analysis of what these ballot measures say and will do if adopted by voters.

[ State Question 776 ] Reiterating the Constitutionality of the Death Penalty

Description: Article 2, Section 9 of the Oklahoma Constitution, just like the Eighth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, prohibits “cruel or unusual punishment.” S.Q. 776 would add new language to Section 9, clarifying that capital punishment is not “cruel or unusual punishment.” It would clarify that the legislature can determine methods of execution and specifying that if a method of execution is found invalid, the sentence of death would remain and be carried out by some other valid method.

Impact: When both the U.S. and Oklahoma constitutional prohibitions against “cruel or unusual punishment” were adopted, they were understood not to prohibit capital punishment. Nevertheless, some advocates have claimed and a few judges have held that the death penalty is unconstitutional. The purpose of S.Q. 776 is to reiterate, in the state Constitution, that capital punishment is not unconstitutional in Oklahoma. It also clarifies that the legislature, rather than judges, has the power to determine methods of execution.

[ State Question 777 ] Limiting Regulations of Farming and Ranching

Description: This measure would add a new section to Article 2 of the Oklahoma Constitution. It would declare that “the rights of citizens and lawful residents of Oklahoma to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state.” It would not overturn any regulations enacted through the end of 2014. Any regulation passed later than that, or in the future, by the state legislature would require a “compelling state interest.”

Impact: The text of S.Q. 777 says its purpose is to “protect agriculture,” which it declares “is the foundation and stabilizing force of Oklahoma’s economy.” It could not be used to challenge any laws enacted in 2014 or earlier. For later laws, or anything enacted by a future legislature, S.Q. 777 would require courts to apply the highest legal standard, often called “strict scrutiny,” in legal challenges to state legislation regulating “agricultural technology and livestock production and ranching practices.” Without proof of a “compelling state interest,” judges would strike down any such legislative acts.

[ State Question 779 ] Sales Tax Increase Directed to State Education

Description: This state constitutional amendment would increase Oklahoma’s state sales tax by an additional one percent. The tax revenue would go into a new special fund, from which 69.5 percent would go to school districts according to the state aid formula, 19.25 percent to state universities and colleges, 8 percent to the State Department of Education for early childhood education, and 3.25 percent to the Department of Career and Technology Education. School districts would be required to use some of their funds to raise teacher pay by at least $5,000. The State Board of Equalization would have power to supervise the legislature’s use of the tax increase revenue to ensure it is used to increase spending levels for state education.

Impact: S.Q. 779 would increase spending on state education programs by an estimated $615 million per year. According to the Tax Foundation, it would raise Oklahoma’s average statewide sales tax to the second-highest in the nation. About 61 percent of the tax increase would fund an increase in public school teacher salaries. Oklahoma’s current average teacher salary is $44,921. A study by the 1889 Institute found that when the cost of living is factored into state average teacher salaries, Oklahoma ranks 30th. That study found that a $5,000 salary increase would put Oklahoma at 15th among the states, just behind Texas.

[ State Question 780 ] Reducing Sentences for Nonviolent Crimes

Description: This measure amends state laws related to certain drug and property crimes. Possessing illegal drugs would become a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. For property crimes like theft, fraud, and embezzlement, the seriousness of the offense and level of punishment are based on the value of the money or property involved. This measure amends a number of property crime statutes so that, in most cases, property offenses relating to less than $1,000 would be misdemeanor crimes punishable by no more than one year in jail and maximum fines of $1,000 or less.

Impact: Felonies are crimes punishable by incarceration for more than one year in state prison; misdemeanors are crimes punishable by incarceration for one year or less, usually served in a county jail. Oklahoma has the second highest incarceration rate in the United States, and spends about half a billion tax dollars each year on corrections. S.Q. 780 would change state law so that the possession of illegal drugs would be a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Manufacturing, trafficking, and selling illegal drugs would remain felonies punishable by long terms of imprisonment. Because of reforms passed this year by the state legislature (after S.Q. 780 was written), most of the reductions in sentences for nonviolent property crimes are already set to take effect this fall.

[ State Question 781 ] Directing Sentencing Reform Savings to Counties

Description: This measure will only take effect if voters also pass S.Q. 780. It would require Oklahoma’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services to calculate how much the state government has saved from the reforms made by S.Q. 780 (from fewer people being sent to state prisons) and to transfer that amount of state funds to a new special account. Funds from the account would then be provided to county governments, “in proportion to county populations,” for “rehabilitative services, including but not limited to mental health and substance abuse services.”

Impact: If S.Q. 780 is passed by voters, some people who commit nonviolent crimes will serve their shorter sentences in county jails rather than in state prisons. This means the state will save money, but counties will have higher expenses. S.Q. 781 is intended to capture the state’s savings and make it available to the counties. It earmarks those funds for rehabilitation services, but leaves counties free to design and operate those programs at the local level.

[ State Question 790 ] Repealing Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution

Description: This measure removes the following section from the Oklahoma Constitution: “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.”

Impact: In 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court forced the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the State Capitol grounds. The state Court said that while the monument may have been acceptable according to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, it violated Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution. In response, state legislators enacted the resolution to send S.Q. 790 to voters to decide whether to repeal this state constitutional language and, in effect, overturn the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision.

[ State Question 792 ] Reforming Constitutional Regulations on the Sale of Alcoholic Beverages

Description: This measure would replace Article 28 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which regulates alcoholic beverages. It would eliminate the current distinction between “low-point” beer (required to have less than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight) and other beer and would end the prohibition against selling refrigerated alcoholic beverages. Grocery stores could sell beer and wine, but would be required to maintain a license. Liquor stores would be allowed to sell products other than alcoholic beverages, with some restrictions, and could remain open until midnight rather than being required to close at 9 p.m. Consumers could receive direct shipments of wine, but only for personal use, directly from wineries, and with limits on the number of cases.

Impact: Among the states, Oklahoma has some of the most restrictive regulations of the sale of alcohol. S.Q. 792 would reduce some of these regulations, especially by allowing grocery stores to sell beer and wine and by allowing refrigeration of the products in all stores. Some liquor store owners are concerned that the changes will hurt their businesses because of increased competition with less regulated grocery stores. The Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission would remain and would regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages at all stores.

From OETA, Sept. 12th, 2016 – The Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) board of directors has selected Garrett King of Weatherford as its next chairman, effective immediately. Clarke Stroud was elected vice chairman and State Superintendent for Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister was named secretary. Glen D. Johnson, J.D., remains on the board as past chairman.

“OETA’s programming was a valued part of my childhood and upbringing in the peanut fields between Binger and Eakly in northern Caddo County, and now as a father myself I’m honored that my colleagues on the OETA board of directors have named me the authority’s 23rd chair since C. F. Spencer’s election in 1953,” said King. “I look forward to working with OETA’s dedicated and innovative staff, our partners at the OETA Foundation and in state government and with OETA’s enthusiastic and tireless supporters to further our mission of providing essential educational content and services that inform, inspire and connect Oklahomans to ideas and information that enrich our quality of life.”

King serves as assistant to the president at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. He previously served on the personal staff for U.S. Representative Frank D. Lucas (OK-3). King is a 2008 graduate of SWOSU, where he studied history and political science. He and his wife, Carissa, have one daughter, Nellie.

Stroud is vice president for student affairs and dean of students at the University of Oklahoma and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from OU. Stroud and his wife, Robin, have two children, McKenna and Callahan, and reside in Norman. Tulsa’s Hofmeister was sworn in as Oklahoma’s 14th State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jan. 12, 2015. Hofmeister is a former public school teacher and small-business owner. She and her husband Gerald have four grown children.

Johnson is the eighth chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education. He was previously the 16th president of Southeastern Oklahoma State University and the 35th speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Johnson has a bachelor’s degree and juris doctor from the University of Oklahoma. He and his wife Melinda reside in Oklahoma City.

Six members of the OETA board of directors are appointed by state statute and the remaining seven are appointed by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and include King, Stroud, Hofmeister, Johnson, Richard Beck, D.M.A., (Claremore), vice president of academic student affairs at Rogers State University; Ms. Suzanne Lair (Tulsa), site principal at Jenks Public Schools; David Boren, J.D., (Norman), president of the University of Oklahoma; Ms. Denise Castelli (Oklahoma City), owner of LimeLight Productions; Mr. Burns Hargis (Stillwater), president of Oklahoma State University; Larry Rice, Ed.D., (Claremore), president of Rogers State University; Ms. Elaine Hobson (Norman), speech language pathologist; and James W. Utterback, Ph.D., (Seminole), president of Seminole State College.

In accordance with Oklahoma Statute, Section 70-23-105 (operative July 1, 1985), the authority meets at least quarterly. The authority meetings are typically conducted on the fourth Tuesday in February, April, June, August, October and December and begin at 1 p.m. at OETA, 7403 North Kelley Avenue, Oklahoma City. Board agendas and minutes can be found online at http://www.oeta.tv/about/board-of-directors/.

From Eagle Forum:

Today, Phyllis Schlafly passed away in the presence of her family at her home in St. Louis, Missouri.

An​ iconic​ American​ leader​ whose love for America was surpassed only by her love of God and her family​​,​ Phyllis Schlafly, an ​indomitable pro-family grassroots advocate and organizer, was ​92 years old. ​Mrs. Schlafly was preceded in death by her beloved husband Fred and​ is survived by six children a​long with 16 grand and ​3 ​great grandchildren.

​Phyllis ​Schlafly ​spent​ an astounding 70 years ​in public service ​of ​her fellow Americans. Her focus from her earliest days until her final ones was​ protecting ​the​ ​family, which she understood as the building block of life. She recognized America as the greatest political embodiment of those ​values. From military superiority and defense to immigration and trade; from unborn life to the nuclear family and parenthood, Phyllis Schlafly​​​ was a courageous and articulate voice for common sense and traditional values. She authored 27 books and thousands of articles. She spoke tens of thousands of times across the United States.​

Her joy in life was evident to all through her smile and wit. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Auditor eviction drama grows

The drama continues to grow over plans to permanently evict the State Auditor’s office from the State Capitol building as a result of ongoing renovations, with Governor Mary Fallin and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman commenting on the situation.

Gov. Fallin spoke with The Oklahoman about the issue:

“Certainly I think it is important for a state elected official to have an office in the Capitol,” Fallin said. Fallin said she was unaware of a plan to move the auditor’s office out of the Capitol building until she read about it in the newspaper.

John Estus, spokesman for OMES, previously said ““The decision [to evict the Auditor’s office] was made jointly by the House speaker’s office, Senate pro tem’s office and our office with assistance from architects and engineers working on the restoration project.” While House Speaker Jeff Hickman issued a statement supporting the move, Senate President Brian Bingman had a different reaction:

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman expressed surprise Wednesday that the state auditor had been told that his office would be forced to permanently move from the state Capitol, which is undergoing a $245 million renovation. “I’m not aware of any final decision that, ‘Hey, this agency has got to move out,’” Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said Wednesday. “I don’t think I’m aware of anything that’s been finalized.”