Four State Questions to appear on Nov. 7 ballot

By Jim Campbell,

OPA Capitol News Bureau

All-day liquor store sales on election days and a ban on pay for legislators found guilty of a crime are among four proposed constitutional amendments referred to the Nov. 7 general election ballot by the Legislature.

Following is a list of the state questions as they will appear on the ballot and an explanation of each proposal.

 

STATE QUESTION NO. 724

LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 339

This measure amends Article V, Section 21 of the State Constitution. That Section deals with State pay to legislators. The amendment restricts State pay to some legislators. The pay restriction would apply to some legislators while in jail or prison. The pay restriction would apply to legislators found guilty of a crime. It would also apply to legislators who plead either guilty or no contest. Affected legislators must return any State pay received for time while in jail or prison.

A 2004 incident in an Oklahoma City hotel lounge that led to the arrest and jailing of a lawmaker prompted this proposal by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, and Rep. Trebor Worthen, R-Oklahoma City .

Former Rep. Mike O'Neal, R-Enid, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of outraging public decency after his arrest on a woman's complaint that he had grabbed her buttocks. While state law automatically calls for suspension of a public official convicted of a felony, the misdemeanor count did not prevent O'Neal from continuing in office and drawing his salary.

SQ 724, referred in Senate Joint Resolution 5, would require that any legislator jailed for any criminal offense and subsequently found guilty or pleads guilty or no contest must pay back to the state any salary received while incarcerated.

 

STATE QUESTION NO. 725

LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 340

This measure amends the State Constitution. It amends Section 23 of Article 10. The measure deals with the Constitutional Reserve Fund also known as the Rainy Day Fund. The measure allows money to be spent from the Rainy Day Fund. The purpose of the authorized spending is to retain employment for state residents by helping at-risk manufacturers. Payments from the Fund would be used to encourage such manufacturers to make investments in Oklahoma . All such payments from the Fund must be unanimously approved by three State officers. Those officers are the Governor and the head of the Senate and House of Representatives. Those officers could only approve payments recommended by an independent committee. Such spending is allowed in years when there is Eighty Million Dollars or more in the Fund and other conditions are met. Such spending is limited to Ten Million Dollars a year.

The help given to a manufacturer is limited to ten percent of its in-State capital investments. The Legislature could make laws to carry out the amendment.

The State Chamber of Commerce requested this measure because of the impending closing of the General Motors and Dayton Tire plants in Oklahoma City .

Authored by Sen. Debbie Leftwich, R-Oklahoma City , and Rep. John Nance, R-Bethany, in Senate Bill 725, it would allow payments from the state's Rainy Day Fund to help at-risk manufacturers remain competitive at Oklahoma locations and prevent loss of jobs. The money could be used for such purposes as modernizing aging facilities.

Nance said although some had called it corporate welfare, “I was prepared to stand up on the House floor and hold up $10 bill and a $100 bill and ask how many were prepared to spend $10 to get $100. It had been estimated General Motors had an $800 million to $1 billion impact on the state's economy.”

The Rainy Day Fund could be tapped for this purpose when it held $80 million or more, but no more than $10 million could be disbursed from the fund in a year.

 

STATE QUESTION NO. 733

LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 341

This measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It amends Article 28. This Article deals with sales of alcoholic beverages. Section 6 of Article 28 bans the sale of alcoholic beverages by package stores on certain days.

Package store sales of these beverages are prohibited on election days while the polls are open. This measure would remove the ban on sales on election days. If this measure passes, package stores could sell alcoholic beverages on election days.

Proponents of this constitutional change argued in the Legislature that any perceived threat was long gone that politicians might boost their election changes by getting voters “liquored up” before they cast ballots.

They also pointed out that since passage of county option sales of liquor-by-the-drink several years ago, drinks could be served in many restaurants and bars but alcoholic beverages could not be sold at retail stores until after the polls closed.

The prohibition against election-day sales was written into the constitution in 1959, following repeal of prohibition.

Retailers favor the measure, citing loss of sales as well as loss in sales taxes for municipalities during each election.

Authors in House Joint Resolution 1066 were Rep. Guy Liebmann, R-Oklahoma City , and Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta.

 

STATE QUESTION NO. 734

LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 342

This measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It amends Section 6A of Article 10. This section provides an exemption from property tax. The exemption applies to goods that are shipped into the state, but which do not remain in the state for more than ninety days. This is sometimes known as the freeport exemption.This measure would allow laws to be enacted. The laws could provide for an application process to claim this exemption. The laws could require the application to be filed by a certain date. The laws could require certain information to be included with the application. The application would be filed with the county assessor.

County government concerns about getting stuck with property tax exemptions that they had not included in their budgets prompted this proposal in Senate Joint Resolution 37 by Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Daniel Sullivan, R-Tulsa.

The change would permit a deadline to be established for application for an ad valorem tax exemption, sometimes called a freeport exemption, on products shipped into Oklahoma but not kept in the state more than 90 days.

Problems could arise if a company waited several years before applying for the exemption. The measure would authorize counties to turn down the applications but would allow laws to be written requiring applications to be filed within a specified time.

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