Category: ‘On the Issues’

State Question No. 755: One Law to Rule By

September 27, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 755 would require that Oklahoma courts only use State and Federal law when ruling on cases based in Oklahoma. The language is as follows:

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.

There is some precedence in the US in that US courts have ruled in cases based on laws from outside the US. As such I think it is good that we are taking efforts to encode our sovereignty further. We should not be using international law unless such laws are created and passed in either the state or federal government.

Vote Yes on SQ 755

State Question No. 751: A Unified Language

September 27, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 751 seeks to make English the official language of Oklahoma. The Language is as follows:

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 question would make all official State business to be only conducted in English and Native American languages. This means that official business with the state cannot be conducted in languages such as Spanish or French.

This question could have some budget saving implications in that printed material from the state will only be printed in select languages. This will also help to increase productivity in our government processes.

There are concerns that this is a targeted measure against illegal immigration from Mexico, but I do not feel that this will negatively affect legal immigration from outside the US. Legal immigrants recognize the need to learn and speak the native language spoken in the US and will make efforts to do business in English.

Vote Yes on SQ 751

State Question No. 754: Appropriations and Formulas (UPDATED)

September 27, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 754 would limit the legislature in how they make appropriations in the budget and is in direct conflict with SQ 744. The language is as follows:

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.

Under this question the state cannot make budget appropriations based on formulas that determine how much money other states and entities spend their money. This conflicts with SQ 744 in that SQ 744 would base common education spending on the average spent in neighboring states. If both were to pass, SQ 754 is written to supersede SQ 744.

I feel strongly that any budget appropriations should be based on need and available spending. We should not be basing spending on influences outside the control of the state government.

UPDATE – I have given some more thought to this question. I have decided that I do not like the language of the second half of the question that would prevent further legislation or amendments from superseding this question. I think there may be times when a formula can be used to best meet the needs of an agency or project. This would also prevent the state government from implementing formula based pay for state offices such as paying state legislators based on the average income of the people of the state.

Considering these things, I have decided that I will be voting against this question.

Vote No on SQ 754

State Question No. 756: Insurance Mandates

September 27, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 756 seeks to nullify the recently passed Federal Health Care Overhaul’s insurance mandate language. It seeks to prohibit the Federal Government from mandating individuals buy insurance. The language is as follows:

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.

The measure’s effect is limited.  It would not affect any law or rule in effect as of January 1, 2010. Nor could the measure affect or negate all federal laws or rules.  The United States Constitution has a Supremacy Clause.  That clause makes federal law the supreme law of the land.  Under that clause Congress has the power to preempt state law.  When Congress intends to preempt state law, federal law controls.  When Congress intends it, constitutionally enacted federal law would preempt some or all of the proposed measure.

I feel that the Federal Government has overstepped their bounds in mandating that everyone buy insurance. The language of the mandate unfairly burdens the people of the United States and specifically Oklahoma. This mandate punishes those who choose not to buy insurance as well as those who seek to buy the best they can afford. The Federal Government has no constitutional right to force this purchase on the people of individual states.

Vote Yes on SQ 756

State Question No. 747: Term Limits

September 27, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 747 creates term limits for all state wide elected officials. The language is as follows:

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 Insurance Commissioner 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 support this measure. I believe that all elected officials should serve limited terms in office. I believe that instituting term limits in the legislature was one of the best things done for our state government in a long time.

This coupled with limits on lobbyist spending is a strong influence in preserving ethics in our government and elected officials. creating term limits also limits the ability of politicians from becoming “career politicians” who care for nothing other than getting reelected. If politicians know they will only be serving a limited time, they will work harder to pass legislation and policies that benefit the people they represent.

Vote Yes on SQ 747

State Question No. 750: Petitioning Our Government

September 27, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 750 changes the number of signatures needed to fill a petition. The language is below:

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 a 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.

I support this ballot measure as it provides greater power and ability to the people of Oklahoma to enact changes that an unwilling legislature will not.

Additionally by basing the required signatures on only Gubernatorial elections, the number of signatures will remain more constant over time as we will no longer be using Presidential elections when more people tend to vote.

Vote Yes on SQ 750

State Question No. 744: School Spending

September 3, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Come this November, Oklahomans will have an opportunity to drastically alter the way we fund our education system. Yet, there are many questions in regard to this proposal that lead one to wonder if this is the right way to go.

Here is the language of State Question 744:

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.

So what does this question actually propose? First, it is a proposal to amend the State Constitution and change how much money we spend on education. Second, it takes how we determine that spending and put it in the hands of other states. Third, it provides no direction on where that money should come from.

Let’s look at those three points one at a time:

Amending the Oklahoma Constitution to change how much we spend on education

Let me be honest here. I do not advocate trying to fix problems by throwing more money at them. It did not work with our economy, banks, housing or auto industry. In each of these cases, the Federal government decided that throwing money at a problem would fix it and all would be well. We know that did not happen. We are still losing jobs, banks are still suffering, the housing market is still at record lows and auto sales are still slumping. So why are there people out there that think throwing more money at education is going to improve our graduation rates and test scores?

Taking control of our spending and putting it in the hands of other states

This proposal will force our state to spend at the average spending of those states in our region. So in effect, other states will determine our minimum level of spending. If we cannot afford to increase our spending when other states do, we will be forced to do so any way. We will not be allowed to adjust our spending as we see fit. Why would any person want to leave our budget and education in the hands of people with no vested interest in our well being?

Provides no direction on where the money will come from

It says it clear as day in the question: “The measure does not raise taxes, nor does it provide new funding for the new spending requirements” So where will the money come from? Last I checked, money does not grow on trees. So it will have to come from somewhere. That somewhere will either be increases in taxes or decreases on other services provided by the state of Oklahoma. While I support decreasing spending in areas of government that are not for the public good, I do not support taking that money and putting it elsewhere in government. I also support decreasing our tax rates to make it more attractive for people to live and work here. So why are people clamoring to increase taxes and decrease other necessary functions of government?

Vote No on SQ744 and fight for real reform

I ask that everyone vote ‘No’ on SQ 744. I propose that we fight for real reform of our education by putting the power of education back into the hands of the people most vested in the welfare of the children of this state, the Parents. I propose that instead of throwing money at the problem of failing public schools, we give the parents the power to direct their children’s education by instituting a voucher program.

By providing a voucher program, parents will be given a certain amount of money each year to go toward their school of choice. If a parent decides they want their child in the public education system, the money will go to that school. If the parent decides to put their child into a private or charter school, the money will go toward that. If the parent decides to home school their child, they will get money to pay for those expenses.

By doing this, Oklahoma will allow our education system to have a true open market. This will put pressure on all schools to provide the best education possible through true competition. This is the only way to improve our education.

State Question No. 748: A State Divided

September 1, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Every 10 years the Federal Government holds a nation wide census. This census is done to count the number of people living in the nation. This counting greatly affects many aspects of not only the Federal Government but also our State Governments.

One of the biggest effects had by the census is in our representation in both the State and Federal government. The census determines how many Representatives each state has in the Federal government. Oklahoma currently has 5. This number is not expected to change, but if it does, the census will let us know.

The state also has an opportunity to redraw our State and Federal Representative districts the year following a census. That will be happening this coming 2011 Session, but with a potential change. On the November Election Ballot, the voters will be asked a question that changes the way the commission assigned to redrawing the districts is formed. The text is as follows:

This measure amends Sections 11A and 11B of Article 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution.  These provisionsdeal 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 nonvoting member.  It requires orders of apportionment to be signed by at least four members of the Commission.

The proposed change will change the way members are added in a supposed “bi-partisan” way. This will include 3 representatives of the Republican Party and 3 representatives of the Democratic Party. This sounds good on the surface, but there a couple of big issues. Why are there no representatives of the over 300 thousand registered Independents in this state? Additionally, this language would exclude any new parties that form in this state.

As a supporter of voter freedom and Ballot Access Reform, I cannot support any effort to write any political party into our state constitution. The language of this amendment flies in the face of what I hold a supreme right of the people of this state. What will happen when one of these parties fails and is no longer recognized in this state (not that that will happen since both the Democratic and Republican Parties are written into our election laws, but that is a topic for another article)? The people will once again have to amend the State Constitution to account for that change.

With all that in mind, I will be voting no on this measure and I recommend that all people do the same.

A “No Gift List”: A Simple Tool to Build an Ethical Government

July 31, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

No Gift ListEarlier this year, Representative Jason Murphy of Guthrie went around our legislature to get support of a “No Gift List.” The purpose of this list is to allow State Representatives and Senators to identify themselves as legislators who will not accept gifts from lobbyists and special interests. This list would allow our legislators, the people we elect to represent us, to show they are only looking out for our interests and not those of lobbyists and special interest groups.

This effort has been met with opposition from those very same people.

This year, he did manage to get the support of six other legislators, State Senators Bill Brown, Anthony Sykes and Randy Brogdon and State Representatives Charles Key, Mike Reynolds and Mike Ritze.

It is a shame that only a total of seven legislators are willing to show their support of the voters.

What is really a shame is the lack of my opponent, Scott Martin, on that list of supporters of the “No Gift List.” So where was he when Rep. Murphy was seeking support? Probably out to lunch with one of the number of lobbyists who have wined and dined him since he was elected in 2006.

Since 2006, Scott Martin has accepted $2,966.39 in lobbyist gifts. These include everything from meals to banquets to watches to season tickets to OU football. He wasted no time in buddying up to lobbyists and accepted his first lobbyist gift within a month of being elected.

Do you really want someone who is willing to sell themselves off to the highest bidder representing you? I know I don’t.

I promise to never accept gifts from any lobbyist or special interest while I am running for office and when I am elected. I am here to represent you, the voters and citizens of House District 46. I am not here to represent lobbyists and special interests.

When I am elected, I will work with Representative Murphy, Senator Sykes and others to get this “No Gift List” passed and put into effect. We owe it to those who elected us to show our support of you.

If you would like to see for yourself who Scott Martin really serves, you can visit the State Ethics Commission’s Public Disclosure website.

All elections shall be free and equal.

July 18, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

“All elections shall be free and equal.” – Oklahoma Constitution, Section III-5

Those words are found in our state’s constitution. Yet, our state legislature is not living up to that standard.

I am running as an Independent in the race. This is because I do not agree with the Republican or Democratic party enough to ally myself with either of them. Part of this is because of what happened in 1974.

In 1974, the Legislative branch of Oklahoma decided they did not want competition in the Gubernatorial or Presidential elections from any person that was not a Republican or Democrat. They decided that they did not want any other parties rising up in Oklahoma to throw them out.

So they did what any fearful legislative body would do. They changed the laws to suit their own ends. They did this in two ways: First they wrote themselves into law. Second they put up extreme barriers for any other party.

Let’s think about that first one. They wrote themselves into law. Prior to 1974, Oklahoma recognized any party that met the state’s guidelines on membership and election status. After 1974, Oklahoma recognized any party that met the new higher threshold of membership and election status and those parties that were on the ballot in 1974. (Section 26-1-107 of Oklahoma Statutes) So what parties were on the ballot in 1974? The Democratic and Republican Parties. You heard that right. Those two parties will always be on the ballot even if they do not meet the requirements that other parties are subject.

Now for the second issue, the barriers on other parties. Prior to 1974, Oklahoma only required 5,000 signatures to organize a new party. From 1924 to 1974 the most parties on any one ballot was four. In 1974 the legislature changed that requirement to 5% of the total votes cast in the last General Election (either Gubernatorial or Presidential)(Section 26-1-108 of Oklahoma Statutes). How many is that? For a Political party to be organized for the coming Gubernatorial election it would have been 73,000. That is a really high jump from 5,000. In order to retain party status in Oklahoma, a Political party would have to have a minimum of 10% of the vote in the last General Election.(Section 26-1-109 of Oklahoma Statutes) This is up from the 1% required prior to 1974.

So were the members of the 1974 legislative branch afraid that they would not be able to get 5,000 people to support their respective parties? Were they afraid that they would fail to get 1% of the vote in a future election? Or were they just afraid that you the people would exercise your rights to elect those who truly represent your ideals and values?

This past Legislative session, a bill was introduced that would have reverted our ballot access laws to their prior 1974 status. This bill had passed the House and the Senate, but due to language differences, they had to be reconciled. A committee was formed to reconcile these differences in February and they just sat on it. This committee of a handful of legislative members decided that giving people a voice and a choice in our elections was not important enough to deal with.

My opponent, Scott Martin, was on that committee.

When I am elected as State Representative, I will reintroduce this bill and fight to give you a voice and a choice in our elections. I will not allow for any person or committee to block your constitutional right to have a free and equal election.