Oklahoma Voters Decide to Approve All Six State Questions
Oklahoma voters have cast their votes in approval of all six state questions on the ballot in this election cycle.
Just before 9:30 p.m., the Associated Press and KTUL.com reported that all five measures had passed with more than 55 percent of the vote for each. From affirmative action to restructuring the Department of Human Services, here's what Oklahoma approved this year:
State Question No. 758: Lower Property Tax
KTUL.com previously reported that if this measure passed, limits on increases in fair cash value would be changed. Currently, increases are limited to five percent of fair cash value in an taxable year.
Now that it has passed, the measure will change the cap on increases to three percent for some properties. It will also apply to homestead exempted properties and to agricultural land.
According to the Associated Press, supporters say limiting the increase to 3 percent yearly will reduce financial hardships on homeowners, particularly those on fixed incomes.
Opponents argued the limit would primarily benefit the wealthy and would result in a loss of revenue for schools, libraries, local governments, the career-tech system and state-funded health services.
This measure will go into effect Jan. 1.
State Question No. 759: Affirmative Action Ban
This particular measure brings into question three areas of government action: employment in state government, education and contracting.
Affirmative action programs would no longer be allowed. These programs have previously given preferred treatment based on race, color or gender. Discrimination on these bases is also not permitted.
So when is affirmative action permitted?:
1. Gender is a bona fide qualification.
2. Existing court orders and consent degrees requiring preferred treatment will continue and can be followed.
3. When needed to keep or obtain federal funds.
The GOP-controlled Legislature voted in 2011 to send the proposal to a vote of the people, according to the Associated Press. It did so over the objection of Democrats who maintained it was designed only to stoke racial tensions and drive conservative voters to the polls.
The Republican sponsors of the bill disputed that claim. They say the amendment's purpose is to help the state get past racism by showing that a person's qualifications are more important than skin color.
The new measure applies to counties, cities, towns and the state, including its agencies. School districts and state subdivisions are also included.
State Question No. 762: Governor in Parole Process
With this measure approved, the governor has been removed from the parole process for persons convicted of certain offenses defined as "nonviolent." Instead, the power and authority once under the governor is now under the Pardon and Parole Board.
According to the Associated Press, opponents say the change will erode accountability, while supporters say it will streamline the early parole process for nonviolent offenders.
The governor will still be involved in the parole process for violent offenders.
State Question No. 764: Oklahoma Water Resources Board
This allows the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to issue bonds, which will be used to provide a reserve fund for the Board.
No more than $300 million worth of bonds can be issued. And the Legislature is also responsible for providing the money to pay for the bonds and methods of issuing them.
The reserve fund will go towards funding certain water resource and sewage treatment programs. It can only be used to pay other bonds and obligations for the funding programs and only issued after other monies and sources are used for repayment.
State Question No. 765: Oklahoma Department of Human Services
This measure will abolish the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Commission of Human Services and the position of Director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Under the Oklahoma Constitution, all three bodies are responsible for the care of the elderly and needy in the state.
According to the Associated Press, supporters say it will add accountability to a department that has struggled with a string of child neglect cases and a class-action lawsuit in recent years.
Now, the Legislature and the people by initiative petition will retain the power to adopt legislation for care of the elderly and the needy. The Legislature is also authorized to create a department(s) to administer and carry out laws to provide care for them.
Opponents of the measure say it goes too far in trying to right the agency's past mistakes.But Gov. Mary Fallin has said the measure will complement Oklahoma's Pinnacle Plan, a $153 million blueprint for overhauling the foster care system over the next five years.
State Question No. 766: Intangible Personal Property Taxes
This measure exempts all intangible personal property from ad valorem property taxation. Currently, only some intangible personal property from ad valorem property taxation are exempted.
An ad valorem property tax is one that is 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.
So what's currently taxed but will no longer be:
Patents, inventions formulas and trade secret
Licenses, franchise and contracts
Land leases, insurance policies and mineral interest
Trademarks, trade names and brand names
The measure will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2013.
All information found on the Oklahoma Election Board's website at www.ok.gov/elections.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.