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Chamber board announces positions on state questions

Published Monday, October 29, 2018

The Tulsa Regional Chamber board approved positions of support after considering five state questions on the November 6 ballot.

A task force evaluated the questions and recommended positions, which the full board then voted to determine Chamber positions. The task force was composed of Chamber Executive Committee members, community leaders, Chamber staff and the Chamber's contract lobbyists. The Chamber’s adopted the group's recommendations at its September meeting.


State Question 793 - Right of optometrists and opticians to practice in retail establishments

Background Information - Oklahoma is currently one of only three states in the country that do not permit optometrists to conduct business in big retail stores like Walmart, Target and Costco. Of the other states that prohibit optometrists in retail establishments — Rhode Island and Delaware — Oklahoma is the largest.

In 2017, Walmart launched an initiative petition to change the state constitution and allow optometrists to be housed in their Oklahoma stores. They were successful in gaining nearly 250,000 signatures — more than double the number of signatures necessary to place this measure on the ballot.

Chamber position: Support

Allowing residents increased access to eye care at affordable rates will help drive OneVoice Regional Legislative Agenda goals of expanding and improving health care for Oklahomans. In addition, modernizing Oklahoma’s laws to be comparable to other states helps provide greater opportunity for economic growth. 


State Question 794 - Crime Victim Rights Amendment (Marsy’s Law)

Background Information - State Question 794, commonly known as Marsy’s Law, would give crime victims expanded rights in the justice process. Crime victims are already afforded a series of rights under Section 34 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in a 1996 state question. These current victims’ rights include knowing the status of court proceedings, being heard at sentencing and parole hearings, and knowing the location of the defendant throughout the justice process. SQ 794 would replace current protections, adding rights to: proceedings free from unreasonable delay; to refuse an interview or other request made by the defendant; to confer with the attorney for the state; and the right to reasonable protection.

Chamber position: No position

While the OneVoice coalition and the Tulsa Regional Chamber have been vocal proponents of criminal justice reform, SQ 794 falls outside of this scope. SQ794 does not have any impact on workforce, rehabilitation and incarceration costs — which are the business interests related to criminal justice. 


State Question 798 - Governor and Lt. Governor run jointly

Background Information - State Question 798 originated from a bill in the Oklahoma Legislature. It would establish a joint ticket for the Governor and Lieutenant Governor races, akin to a ticket for president/vice president at the federal level. Requiring the governor and lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket would prevent them from being from different parties.

If approved, the measure would take effect in 2026 and the legislature would establish procedures for the joint nomination. Currently 26 states elect the offices jointly. In 18 of those 26 states, candidates for governor may pick their own running mates. In 8 of those 26 states, there are separate primaries for governor and lieutenant governor, with the winning candidate in each primary appearing on the general election ticket.

Chamber position: Support

Members were unanimous in support of SQ 798 and believe it will strengthen our state government's executive structure.


State Question 800 - Oklahoma oil and gas tax revenue investment fund

Background Information - State Question 800 would create an endowment fund to be used for state government expenses. It would require that at least 5 percent of revenue from the state’s oil and gas production tax (GPT) collections be placed each year into the “Oklahoma Vision Fund.” The fund would be invested by the Oklahoma State Treasurer into stocks and other securities. The state treasurer would deposit no more than 4 percent of the principal amount of the fund into the state’s general revenue each year. SQ 800 dictates that not more than 5 percent of the money in the fund could be used for payment of debt obligations issued by the state of Oklahoma, state government entities or local government entities.

Eight other states — including North Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, and New Mexico — have permanent funds to supplement government expenditures.

Chamber position: No position

Although budget stability has been a key OneVoice priority and we support long-term planning efforts, many expressed concern about creating another special set-aside fund and questioned whether the fund was structured and regulated correctly.


State Question 801 - School building fund

Background Information - State Question 801 would allow voters in a school district to expand the permissible uses of local property tax dollars to include school operations. Oklahoma Senator Stephanie Bice led the effort to create this legislation. Currently, the state limits the rate of ad valorem funding to ensure that school districts across the state are funded equitably. However, the law allows an additional five mills ($5.00 per $1,000.00 of the assessed value of taxable property) to go to a school’s building fund. Money from this fund may only be used to build, repair or remodel school buildings and keep up with landscaping needs and maintenance. SQ 801 would also allow voters to approve this funding to be used for school operations if needed — meaning it could be used for teacher salaries, textbooks, technology and supplies for the classroom.

Chamber position: Support

State Question 801 aligns with the OneVoice agenda in supporting opportunities for increased local education funding. Regional superintendents have been clear that their building funds are already maxed out, and it should be noted that SQ 801 by itself will not provide additional funds for school districts. Nevertheless, it will not inflict harm on districts to have this flexibility and control. SQ 801 is potentially the first step in allowing increased local support without negatively impacting state funding allocations.

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