Category: ‘State Questions’

SQ 766: Exempts all intangible personal property from ad valorem taxation

October 21, 2012 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Final Question. State Question 766 is an interesting beast. I think this one has caused more controversy than any other question on the ballot. Much like SQ 758, this one also affects property taxes, but for a different kind of property, intangible.

Here is the text of the measure.

This measure amends Section 6A of Article 10 of the Oklahoma Constitution. At present that section exempts some intangible personal property from ad valorem property taxation. This measure would exempt all intangible personal property from ad valorem property taxation.

An ad valorem property tax is a tax imposed upon the value of property.

Intangible Personal Property is property whose value is not derived from its physical attributes, but rather from what it represents or evidences.

Intangible Personal Property which is still currently taxed but would not be taxed if the measure is adopted, includes items such as:

o patents, inventions, formulas, designs, and trade secrets;
o licenses, franchise, and contracts;
o land leases, mineral interests, and insurance policies;
o custom computer software; and
o trademarks, trade names and brand names.

If adopted, the measure would apply to property taxation starting with the tax year that begins on January 1, 2013:

Intangible property under current Oklahoma law is limited to things like cash on hand. Unfortunately, what is not covered are things like Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights. What this means is that if you invented something, created something or registered a product or business name, that is all property that can be taxed. If SQ 766 were to pass, you will no longer be open for taxation on those and a whole lot of other things such as customer lists and even your good will.

There are some issues with this question that I think are unfortunate. For the most part, this question is good, but because it creates a simple blanket ban on all intangible property, it is wide open for interpretation. This means that for many years to come, businesses and other people will be in court trying to prove that what they are being taxed on should be considered intangible. However, that is hardly different than it is today. This question came about because of such court battles.

Another issue that those opposed to the question have is that this will cut available funds from schools as they rely mostly on property taxes. However, that could be of little concern if the state would open up the schools to competition on the free market.

Finally, I think that passing this question is a good move to making the tax system more fair for those who work to move the nation, state and economy forward. It would also remove double taxation on productivity and creativity. Under the current system, you are taxed on the income you make selling the book you wrote as well as owning the copyright on the book. That is not fair. Same for inventors. Same for businesses. If you are a business that people love to come to and do business with, you are not only taxed on the money you make from your customers but also on the fact that your customers like doing business with you over the competition. That is a quick way to stifle competition.

So despite the weaknesses of this question, I suggest you Vote “Yes” on SQ 766.

SQ 765: Repeals sections of the Constitution relating to the Department of Public Welfare

October 19, 2012 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 765 is a rather unwieldy beast of a question. This question will drastically change the way the State manages the needs of those less fortunate.

Here is the text of the question.

The measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It abolishes the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Commission of Human Services and the position of Director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. These entities were created under different names by Sections 2, 3 and 4 of Article 25 of the Oklahoma Constitution and given duties and responsibilities related to the care of the aged and needy. The measure repeals these sections of the Constitution and consequently, removes the power of the Commission of Human Services to establish policy and adopt rules and regulations. Under the measure, the Legislature and the people by initiative petition retain the power to adopt legislation for these purposes.

The measure adds a provision to the Constitution authorizing the Legislature to create a department or departments to administer and carry out laws to provide for the care of the aged and the needy. The measure also authorizes the Legislature to enact laws requiring the newly-created department or departments to perform other duties.

Perhaps you have heard all the stories over the last few years about kids in the foster system dying at the hands of their foster parents, or the general mismanagement of the children under the care of the DHS. You may have also heard about the DHS being sued for these problems as well.

This question seeks to address that issue. What this question does is remove the DHS and its services from the State Constitution and grant the state legislature the power to create such an agency as it sees fit. It also provides the Governor, with the approval of the Senate, to appoint a new head of the agency. This would place the agency under a more direct accountability to the Governor and the citizens as well.

Based on all the problems that the DHS has been having in recent years, I think it is time to restructure and rethink how we take care of the needy. Making this agency more accountable to the Legislature, Governor and the people is a good way to go about it.

Vote “Yes” on SQ 765

SQ 764: Creates the Water Infrastructure Credit Enhancement Reserve Fund; allows the OWRB to issue bonds

October 19, 2012 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 764 is one of those issues that seems like a good idea, especially when certain external factors are in play, such as a state wide drought. However, when you really look at the question, what you see is a question asking for citizens to grant the government permission to  increase debt.

Here is the text of the measure.

This measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It adds a new Section 39A to Article 10. It would allow the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to issue bonds. Any bonds issued would be used to provide a reserve fund for the Board. The fund would be a reserve fund for certain water resource and sewage treatment funding programs. The fund could only be used to pay other bonds and obligations for the funding programs. The bonds could only be issued after other monies and sources are used for repayment. The bonds would be general obligation bonds. Not more than Three Hundred Million Dollars worth of bonds could be issued. The Legislature would provide the monies to pay for the bonds. The Legislature would provide for methods for issuing the bonds. The Legislature would provide for how the fund is administered.

While the measure does have one good part to it, the Legislative checks, it still leaves the main issue intact, debt. When looking at the federal government and the $14 trillion debt it currently has and comparing that to the relatively balanced and debt free budget the state has, do we really want to the State to allow individual agencies to raise up to $300 million in debt? Even with the cause of improving the state’s water and sewage system, that argument falls flat.

Additionally, there is no indication that the Water Resources Board needs this bond power. Even supporters of the measure agree with that point. They claim that this would allow for the Board to better respond to desperate needs of municipalities. However, that same need could be addressed by setting aside portions of the current allocated budget for such needs.

So instead of authorizing new debt to meet the needs of the state, we need more sound fiscal policies.

Vote “No” ON SQ 764

SQ 762: Modifies the power and authority of the Governor and Pardon and Parole Board in the parole process for nonviolent offenders

October 18, 2012 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

I have fallen behind in my duty. This question has been getting a lot of attention over the last few days. So it is time I addressed it.

Of all the questions on the ballot this year, SQ 762 is the only question that was a slam dunk case of “Vote Yes” for me. I will explain, but first the text of the question.

This measure amends Section 10 of Article 6 of the Oklahoma Constitution. It changes current law, decreasing the power and authority of the Governor by removing the Governor from the parole process for persons convicted of certain offenses defined as nonviolent offenses. It enlarges the power and authority of the Pardon and Parole Board by authorizing that Board, in place of the Governor, to grant parole to persons convicted of certain offenses defined as nonviolent offenses.

The Legislature defines what offenses are nonviolent offenses and the Legislature may change that definition.

The measure authorizes the Pardon and Parole Board to recommend to the Governor, but not to itself grant, parole for persons convicted of certain offenses, specifically those offenses identified by law as crimes for which persons are required to serve not less than eighty-five percent of their sentence prior to being considered for parole and those designated by the Legislature as exceptions to nonviolent offenses. For those offenses for which persons are required to serve a minimum mandatory period of confinement prior to being eligible to be considered for parole, the Pardon and Parole Board may not recommend parole until that period of confinement has been served.

Oklahoma is the only state in the nation in which the Governor must approve every parole. All other states only involve the governor in violent offenders or do not involve the governor at all. With the Governor involved in every parole, the process is slow costly and unfair to those seeking parole.

Recently, Governor Mary Fallin came out in opposition to this question, even though she signed into law the exact bill it is based on. When she signed the bill, it was determined by the State Attorney General that this would have to be sent before the citizens to amend the State Constitution. So what changed between her signing the original bill and this state question being on the ballot? Probably the very public impression that she might be “soft on crime”.

I don’t see how one could even think that as Fallin has approved fewer paroles in her two years in office than previous governors did in a similar timeframe. That is an injustice to those who have served time in prison and have shown that they are reformed. They deserve a chance to integrate themselves back into society.

Because this bill is limited to non-violent offenses, there is no risk of danger to the public. Those who are serving sentences for violent crimes or other mandatory 85% sentencing terms, will still require Governor approval before parole is granted.

Oklahoma is #1 in the nation for incarceration rates among women as is a top ranking state for incarceration rates in general. Oklahoma has an incarceration problem right now. We do not have enough prison personel to handle the number of people we put behind bars. This question, if passed will help reduce that burden on our prison personel. Fewer people behind bars means an easier job for those civil servants. If this question does not pass, we will continue the compounding problem that will lead to more riots, more inmate and personel deaths.

Do the right thing and “Vote Yes” on SQ 762

SQ 759: Prohibits certain preferential treatment or discrimination

October 1, 2012 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 759 looks to be the most controversial of all the questions proposed this year. The purpose of the question is to block any kind of preferential treatment of any person based on race or gender. The text of the question is as follows:

This measure adds a new section to the State Constitution. It adds Section 36 to Article II.

The measure deals with three areas of government action. These areas are employment, education and contracting.

In these areas, the measure does not allow affirmative action programs. Affirmative action programs give preferred treatment based on race, color or gender. They also give preferred treatment based on ethnicity or national origin. Discrimination on these bases is also not permitted.

The measure permits affirmative action in three instances. 1. When gender is a bonafide qualification, it is allowed. 2. Existing court orders and consent decrees that require preferred treatment will continue and can be followed. 3. Affirmative action is allowed when needed to keep or obtain federal funds.

The measure applies to the State and its agencies. It applies to counties, cities and towns. It applies to school districts. It applies to other State subdivisions.

The measure applies only to actions taken after its approval by the people.

Many critics of the question claim that it is unnecessary. They claim that such preferential treatment is not happening within the state. They also claim that this question would limit certain types of scholarships made available at state universities.

Of course, there is little evidence of any kind of harm that would come about by the passing of this question.

However, the language of the question and the nature under which it was proposed create other issues. This language is structured in such a way as to interest Republican leaning voters in coming out to vote. Many conservative white voters will be very interested in seeing something like this pass and will be coming out to support it.

This makes two questions so far, SQ 758 being the first, that are written in such a way as to pander to a more conservative leaning voter block. With that in mind, and the fact that this is not needed, I cannot support this question.

Vote “No” on SQ 759.

SQ 758: Ad Valorem Taxation Limitation on Valuation Increases

October 1, 2012 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 758 is the first of two state questions having to deal with ad valorem, or property, taxes. This one deals primarily with how the value of property is assessed through what is called “fair cash value.” The text of the question as it will appear on the ballot is as follows:

This measure amends the State Constitution. It amends Section 8B of Article 10.

The measure deals with real property taxes also called ad valorem taxes. These taxes are based on several factors. One factor is the fair cash value of the property.

The measure changes the limits on increases in fair cash value. Now, increases are limited to 5% of fair cash value in any taxable year.

The measure changes the cap on increases to 3% for some property. The 3% cap would apply to homestead exempted property. The cap would also apply to agricultural land.

The measure also removes obsolete language.

Now this reduction only applies to property that is classified as agricultural or homestead property. This means that most other property is still subject to to the 5% rule. Why the distinction, one can only guess.

The reason I think that the question is worded as such is to appeal to rural voters and to pander to the interests of rural land owners. As such, this question is a pretty strong indicator of cronyism within the state legislature. While I am a supporter of lowered taxes, I would prefer that such tax reductions were across the board.

As such, if this tax reduction is not a universal reduction, I cannot support the question. The legislature needs to revisit this and apply it across the board for all land owners in order for it to be a good idea.

Vote “No” on SQ 758.

State Question No. 757 – Save it for a Rainy Day

October 12, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

This question adjusts the amount of state funds that can be put in the Constitutional Reserve Fund also known as the Rainy Day Fund.

This measure amends the State Constitution.  It amends Section 23 of Article 10.  It increases the amount of surplus revenue which goes into a special fund.  That fund is the Constitutional Reserve Fund.  The amount would go from 10% to 15% of the funds certified as going to the General Revenue fund for the preceding fiscal year.

While I support the need to have a savings account for the state in order to have funds available for emergencies, I feel that our current cap of 10% is sufficient. By increasing the amount the state can put away for the future, it decreases the amount the state is required to give back to the tax payer in times of excess.

I feel that the any beyond the current limit of 10% should be returned to the people of Oklahoma.

Vote No

State Question No. 752 – Judicial Nominating Committee

October 12, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 752 adds two new members to the Judicial Nominating Committee and changes some requirements for those who are selected as members.

This measure amends a section of the Oklahoma Constitution.  It amends Section 3 of Article 7-B.  The measure deals with the Judicial Nominating Commission.  This Commission selects nominees to be appointed judges or justices, when a vacancy occurs.  The Commission selects three, sometimes four, qualified nominees.  The Governor must appoint one of the nominees. The amendment adds two at-large members to the Commission.  At-large members can come from any Oklahoma congressional district.  The Senate President Pro Tempore appoints one of the new at-large members.  The Speaker of the House of Representatives appoints the other.  At-large members can not be lawyers.  Nor can they have a lawyer in their immediate family.  Nor can more than two at-large members
be from the same political party.

Six non-at-large members are appointed by the Governor.  They cannot be Oklahoma lawyers.  The measure adds a new qualification for non-lawyer members.  They can not have a lawyer from any state in their immediate family.  Each congressional district must have at least one non-lawyer member. Six lawyer members are elected by members of the Oklahoma Bar Association.  Each congressional district must have at least one lawyer member.

I feel that these changes are unnecessary. The committee already consists of 12 members 6 of whom are not selected by the Governor. I feel that this question was drafted in an attempt at preventing conflict of interest, but does not meet those desires.

Additionally, I think that adding new members would simply complicate the process further than it already is.

Vote No

State Question No. 746: A License to Vote

September 27, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 746 seeks to create a identification requirement in order to vote in an election. The Language is as follows:

This measure amends statutes relating to voting requirements.  It requires that each person appearing to vote present a document proving their identity.  The document must meet the following requirements.  It must have the name and photograph of the voter.  It must have been issued by the federal, state or tribal government. It must have an expiration date that is after the date of the election.  No expiration date would be required on certain identity cards issued to persons 65 years of age or older.

In lieu of such a document, voters could present voter identification cards issued by the County Election Board.

A person who cannot or does not present the required identification may sign a sworn statement and cast a provisional ballot.  Swearing to a false statement would be a felony.

These proof of identity requirements also apply to in-person absentee voting.  If adopted by the people, the measure would become effective July 1, 2011.

The US and State Constitutions guarantee the people the right to vote. This question would essentially force the people to pay for a license to exercise their Constitutional right. We would not stand idly by if were were forced to get a license to exercise our rights to Free Speech, Religion and Assembly. Why should we be willing to be forced to obtain a license to vote?

Additionally, I feel that this is a solution in search of a problem. There has been no documented case of voter fraud that this question would prevent. On top of the lack of an actual problem, this question would put an undue burden on people who do not normally carry identification. These people who tend to be elderly or poor would be less likely to vote if this requirement went into effect.

Vote No on SQ 746

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