From property tax laws to crime victims’ rights, Oklahoma voters will have a plethora of choices to make in November’s general elections. Below, learn more about the five state questions found on the general election ballot, along with related Oklahoma Farm Bureau policy positions.
State Question 793
State Question 793 would provide Oklahomans with more choices regarding locations and costs for eye exams and corrective lenses. The question, which amends the state constitution, would allow optometrists or opticians to practice inside retail establishments.
The Legislature would be prohibited from creating laws that discriminate against eye care professionals based on where they practice, and from laws that restrict clinics inside retail establishments from selling prescribed optical goods and services. However, under SQ 793, the Legislature would have the ability to prohibit optometrists from performing surgery in eye clinics inside retail establishments. State lawmakers also would still have the ability to limit the number of locations a single optometrist may practice, maintain optometry licenses and impose health and safety standards.
Supporters of SQ 793 claim the question will make optical services more accessible, economical and convenient for all Oklahomans. Opponents, including the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians, say “optometric physicians are health care professionals that perform surgeries, diagnose and manage chronic eye diseases, and are tasked with detecting potentially life-threatening diseases. Oklahoma has correctly chosen not to place medical professions like optometry in retail settings.” Oklahoma Farm Bureau members have no specific policy concerning SQ 793.
State Question 794
Also known as ‘Marsy’s Law’, State Question 794 would expand the legal rights of crime victims in Oklahoma. The measure originated in the state Legislature in 2017 as SJR 46 by Sen. Anthony Sykes and Rep. Scott Biggs.
SQ 794 places new rights for crime victims in the state Constitution including the right to be heard in court proceedings, the right to be notified of such proceedings, the right to reasonable protection, the right to talk with prosecutors and the right to refuse interview requests from defendant’s attorney without a subpoena.
SQ 794 supporters include Marsy’s Law for All, whose goal is to add victims’ rights to all state constitutions that currently lack them and eventually amend the U.S. Constitution. SQ 794 also has been endorsed by municipalities, organizations, associations and several branches of law enforcement.
OKFB policy says, “We recommend that Farm Bureau support legislation mandating the crime victim’s surviving family be notified in advance and given the privilege to attend any or all parole hearings of the convict who committed the crime against them and who is being considered for parole.”
State Question 798
State Question 798, a measure created in the state Legislature under SJR 66 by Sen. Adam Pugh and Rep. Mark Lepak, would require the governor and lieutenant governor to run on a joint ticket. If passed, the new election format would begin in 2026. SQ 798 would charge state lawmakers with creating procedures for the joint nomination and election of candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.
Supporters of the measure believe Oklahoma leaders would gain a unified vision and better coordinated efforts to implement policies. SQ 798 opponents say the measure removes options for Oklahoma voters and grants the governor too much power. OKFB members have no policy on the issue.
State Question 800
Passed by the state Legislature as SJR 35 by Sen. John Sparks and Rep. Charles McCall, State Question 800 would amend the state constitution to require 5 percent of gross production taxes on oil and gas production be placed in a trust fund known as the Oklahoma Vision Fund beginning July 1, 2020.
The percentage of gross production tax directed to the fund would increase by two-tenths percentage points each year. Deposits would be made each year, rather than only in years when the state can afford it. Similarly, a percentage of the fund would be spent every year. The state could invest a portion of to increase the fund, but no more than 5 percent of the monies in the fund could be invested in Oklahoma state and local government bonds.
Supporters of SQ 800 believe the vision fund ensures a long-term approach to meeting state budget needs with a growing revenue stream, but opponents to the measure argue that the state already has two reserve funds and that a new fund could divert revenue needed today. OKFB has no policy on the issue.
State Question 801
Put on the ballot by the state Legislature’s SJR 70 by Sen. Stephanie Bice and Rep. Elise Hall, State Question 801 would amend the state constitution to allow school districts to use property tax dollars for operational expenses.
State law currently permits school districts to use property tax dollars only for their building funds. SQ 801 would remove those restrictions and allow property taxes to be used for operational costs such as teacher salaries.
Supporters believe SQ 801 would give school districts the ability to pay teachers higher salaries or hire additional teachers and provide more flexibility in determining how to best use their funds. Opponents say SQ 801 could create an unlevel playing field in educational quality, could cause districts to receive less state aid, and could decrease funds for building maintenance. Though OKFB has no specific policy on SQ 801, the organization has various policy about using property tax dollars to fund education.
OKFB policy states, “We oppose any increase in ad valorem taxes. We urge patrons to vote necessary local funds to provide quality education, but favor state funding of new programs which are made mandatory by the state.
“OKFB opposes local school districts being penalized in the state funding formula because of local bond elections and other funding mechanisms. We support allowing school districts to have a larger carryover fund to be better prepared for economic down turns and not to be penalized for wisely using funds.
“We recommend OKFB do a study and encourage the Oklahoma Legislature to also do a study to find alternate ways of funding school buildings, other than property taxes, so that everyone is paying and not only the property owners.
“We encourage the Oklahoma Legislature to amend school spending laws to enable local boards of education the ability to use general funds for capital improvements.
“We support a state-funded teacher pay increase that raises teachers’ pay to regional averages. We recommend that when the state Legislature votes an increase in teachers’ and support personnel salaries, the raise be funded fully by the state for the duration of the increase. We propose state mandated teacher pay raises and associated costs be fully funded outside of the school funding program.
“We vigorously oppose any increase in the millage limits.”
To learn more about the five Oklahoma state questions, watch the OKFB state questions webinar featuring OKFB President Rodd Moesel and the State Chamber of Oklahoma.