An in-depth look, view on state questions

Posted by art@cushingcitizen.com art@cushingcitizen.com
  Options

9/21/2016


On Nov. 8, voters will vote on each of seven state questions. Some have been high-profile issues while some have not been.
I have read and studied them and are providing in this column my explanation and point of view on the following state questions:

State Question 776 deals with death penalty
This is very simple.
What happens in Oklahoma when a person receives the death penalty and the method of execution is deemed by federal authorities to be invalid? Is the person off the hook for the death penalty?
SQ 776, if passed, would change the Oklahoma Constitution to require the death penalty to remain imposed until a valid method of execution is determined.
The last portion reads, “Shall not be deemed to be or constitute the infliction of cruel or unusual punishment under Oklahoma’s Constitution…” We’re still giving the criminal far more consideration than did he to his victim.
I’m voting for SQ 776.

State Question 777 is called “Right to Farm.”
From the average voter’s point of view, this is a measure that’s senseless. What we average voters don’t see is the barrage of criticism farmers, ranchers, fruit and vegetable growers and others in the agriculture industry put up with from out-of-state environmental activists aka “Greenies.”
For centuries, the agriculture industry has been growing healthy feed for livestock, growing our fruits and vegetables and growing our beef, pork and poultry. They’ve always worked hard to provide us the food we need. They’ve worked long hours and have been blessed by good harvests and impacted by storm, drought, disease and other natural occurrences.
They do this because it’s their way of life. Farmers farm. Ranchers raise livestock. They hope to make a living and hopefully a very nice living but they do what they do because that’s who they are. A part of their culture is the hope and plan to leave the farm to family members of the next generation.
Then come people who complain that pesticides are causing certain insects to become near extinction or may be polluting water supplies. That other technologies or other practices could be making food produced not as healthy or measures they take may be damaging the environment.
Simply put, State Question 777 must be passed because too many politicians cannot help but be influenced by the Greenies.
If politicians had the courage to tell the Greenies to go find something constructive to do with their time, this measure would not be necessary. Fact is, our government has listened to them too much for too long and now, a law is necessary to control government’s propensity to add regulations and prohibitions that impact those in agriculture from being able to do their job.
The opponents believe the passage of SQ 777 will ultimately legalize cockfighting and cause it to be more difficult to control puppy-mill operations. Of course, there is nothing to this at all. Opponents are concerned that limiting government’s control and regulations of agriculture downward spiral caused by irresponsible agriculture practices. Give Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers a little credit.
We’re convinced of several things. There will always be puppy mills — maybe illegal ones, but there will always be puppy mills. There will always be cockfighting though illegal. And efforts to put unnecessary and unreasonable regulations on farming and ranching and unnecessary and distracting paperwork on folks whose lives are about raising cattle, growing product and providing us food — serve to provide an atmosphere where big corporate farming and ranching will replace us hardworking Oklahomans whom we should choose, over corporates, to provide our food. Who would YOU trust more?
There will always be a way for a courageous legislature to control the breeding practices of our pets. There will always be a way for a bold legislature to limit illegal cockfighting. We prefer Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers who have a deep love for the land and take incredible pride in providing your food over ANY and we do mean ANY big corporate operations.
I will vote “yes” on SQ 777.

SQ 779 – Penny sales tax for education
Get real.
Once upon a time, our legislature gave us a measure to vote on. They were frothing at the bits to get lottery money and proposed that if we pass lottery on Oklahoma, it would solve education funding problems once and for all.
Really?
What happened? We passed the lottery. A significant amount of new money came into the state coffers earmarked for education. Did the education funding increase by that amount? Absolutely not!
You have real-time evidence that if we pass a penny sales tax for education there’s a really good chance our Legislature will choose to redirect current money invested on education to other functions of state government.
Low priced oil has had an incredible impact on people of Oklahoma. We have found $4 per gallon gasoline to be far less expensive than $2 gas. It has taken a toll on our state budget as it should and as we knew it would.
We know oil prices will rise. We know oil prices will rise and fall. They always have and always will. When the price of oil returns to $75 per barrel, do you think for a minute our state government will decide the new penny sales tax is no longer necessary?
If you pass this penny sales tax for education, it will be here forever and there is no assurance Oklahoma’s funding to education will increase. The legislature has control of that. To increase education funding, increase our state legislature’s passion toward public education. Only then will the problem be solved.
Our legislature would rather you pay for their lack of planning, lack of management and lack of passion for public education.
I’m voting “no” on SQ 779.

State Questions 780 and 781 go together.
SQ 780, is called, in the language of SQ 781, “Oklahoma Smart Justice Reform Act.”
Why it is not called that in the language of 780, we have no idea. It may because when one reads it, it doesn’t look very smart at all.
This question, brought to you via Initiative Petition, transforms certain crimes from felony offenses to misdemeanors. Certain drug possession offenses could be changed to misdemeanors rather than felony. Even certain drug possession offenses when the defendant has a prior drug possession conviction would change to a misdemeanor.
Additionally property crimes where damage is $500 to become a felony, will change to $1,000 property crime to be charged as a felony. We’re making life easier on folks who make wrong choices, folks. That’s the wrong direction.
Today, when a person is charged with a false declaration of a pawn ticket, embezzlement, larceny, grand larceny, theft, receiving or concealing stolen property, taking domesticated fish or game, fraud, forgery, counterfeiting or issuing bogus checks and the amount of damage is $500, the person faces a misdemeanor conviction rather than felony.
Now, somehow or another, passing the “Oklahoma Smart Justice Reform Act” will generate more money or save the state from spending money such that there are “savings or averted costs” that will be calculated and deposited into the County Community Safety Investment Fund.
This is the gist of SQ 781. The question, if passed, would set up a new fund with the new money or money saved by the passage of SQ 780 and distribute the funds to counties, based on population, to provide mental health and substance abuse services. It would seem to make sense to distribute based on the percentage of drug possession and property crimes per population. That’s a small issue.
We do see, if this happens to create significant funds, more government jobs created for mental health and substance abuse positions.
To effectively deal with the problem of crime, it begins with good parenting followed by a society tougher on crime. If anything, let’s make the consequences of bad choices even greater — not less.
I’m vote “no” on both SQ 780 and SQ 781.

“Yes” on SQ 790
The United States of America needs to be moving closer to God rather than further away from Him. Any measure that proposes our government to move closer to our Father and Creator we will support.
SQ 790, if passed, will remove Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which prohibits the government from using public money or property for the direct or indirect benefit of any religion or religious institution. According to the ballot, Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution has been interpreted by Oklahoma courts as requiring the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the State Capitol.
If SQ 790 passes, that doesn’t necessarily mean the monument stays. There is the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution that “is a similar constitutional provision that prevents the government from endorsing a religion or becoming ‘overly involved’ with religion.”
Define “overly involved.”
Whether or not a person is a Christian, one would agree that attempting to live by the Ten Commandments would generally be a step in the right direction.
Should federal law require it moved, so be it and we should disagree and fight the removal with all we have but for Goodness sake, we God-fearing Oklahomans should be pleased to pass a law attempting our government to become closer to God.
I’m voting “yes” on SQ 790.