Here are my thoughts on Oklahoma’s 2016 State Questions:
SQ 776 – Adds The Death Penalty To The Oklahoma Constitution.
This state question is a response by the legislature to recent court rulings against Oklahoma’s methods of executing people on death row. As a Libertarian, I am completely opposed to the death penalty. The US justice system is not perfect. Too often, innocent people, many of them with mental health problems, are railroaded through the justice system to secure a murder conviction. Prosecution and police use deceptive measures including coerced confessions and withholding and fabricating evidence to convict someone. People deserve every chance to prove their innocence, even if it take years or decades. The death penalty puts an irreversible roadblock to justice. I say we take a stand against the death penalty and Vote No on SQ 776.
SQ 777 – Creates a “Right To Farm” Amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution.
Farming is already a natural right of property owners. However, no one has a right to harm the property of their neighbors. One of the government’s primary purposes is to protect the rights of property owners from fraud and harm. I have heard no compelling reasons to support this Constitutional amendment, nor have I heard any compelling reasons for why this amendment is even needed. Until I see a compelling reason to enshrine such a “right” in the Constitution, I say Vote No on SQ 777.
SQ 779 – Creates a One Cent Sales Tax To Fund Education
While this question sounds good on its face, it has a number of problems. First up, the supporters of this question are falling for their ages old “throw money at it” solution to failing education. They have done this before with taxes on gambling and other taxes before. But the real problem with our education system is bloat and a lack of competition. Public education supporters are afraid to take on these issues. Instead, they would rather increase the Oklahoma sales tax to one of the highest in the nation. Something that will drive people out of this state, reducing tax income. Vote No on SQ 779.
SQ 780 and SQ 781 – Sweeping Criminal Justice Reform
SQ 780 reduces criminal penalties for a wide number of victimless crimes, including many drug possession charges. For years Oklahoma has been a “tough on crime” state. But in reality, Oklahoma has simply made sentences for minor offenses longer and harsher. This has not resulted in a reduced crime rate, but has only resulted in broken people and families. People who could have been a benefit to the state had they not had their lives ruined by time in jail and a criminal record. SQ 781 is a companion bill and can only have an effect if SQ 780 passes. It takes the money saved by not incarcerating those convicted of those minor offenses and puts those funds toward alternative reform programs. Both are great ideas. Vote Yes on SQ 780 and SQ 781.
SQ 790 – Repeals The Constitutional Amendment Preventing Public Funds For Religious Uses
SQ 790 is a direct response to the ruling barring the use of public land to host the Ten Commandment Monument. Many Christian legislators were upset that the courts ruled that way. So they have responded with this question. However, they have not thought through the consequences of this measure. The First Amendment of the US Constitution is clear that government cannot create laws that benefit or harm a religion directly. By hosting the Ten Commandment monument, the OK Government would be propping up Christianity over other religions in this state. No one really believes that the OK Government would allow an Islamic, Jewish, Hindu or other religious monument on State property. This amendment would also open the doors to other means of directly financing religious institutions. Vote No on SQ 790.
SQ 792 – Reforms Oklahoma Alcohol Laws on Sales and Manufacturing
Oklahoma is still a state deeply in a prohibitionist mind set. While not as bad as other states, Oklahoma still heavily restricts the sales of alcohol. This question opens up production, distribution and sales of alcohol. Retail outlets will be allowed to sell wine and strong beer. Liquor stores will be allowed to sell more than just alcohol. Wineries would be allowed to ship directly to customers. And many more changes. These changes, while not where they could be, greatly frees up restrictions on businesses in this state. Vote Yes on SQ 792.