Of the 45 states whose legislatures hold sessions in 2010, 27 of them have adjourned for the year, and 5 more will wrap up before the end of the month. Of the more than 80 bills dealing with the initiative and referendum process in various states, 51 of them would have reduced citizens’ initiative rights. Thanks to the work of activists in our coalitions, only 3 bills reducing citizen’s rights have passed and become law.
Meeting with members of the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma at a dinner a few weeks ago, Paul Jacob, the Virginia-based ballot initiative and referendum rights and legislative term limits activist, spoke about his experience in Oklahoma in 2007. This was where he was indicted on a charge of conspiracy to defraud the state for hiring out-of-state petitioners. “I have not been back in Oklahoma since then,” Jacob said to the Libertarians gathered at a Chinese restaurant in Oklahoma City. “And what’s interesting is that interest outside the state more than it was here in Oklahoma.”
Miami voters will be asked to approve a sales tax for street work during a special election in July. A divided City Council this week approved an ordinance and resolution to place a sales tax of 0.65 percent before voters on July 27, the date of the primary election for federal, state and county offices. In a May 2009 election, voters defeated a proposed 1-cent sales tax for street projects, with 327 voting in favor and 380 voting “no.”
House Speaker Chris Benge said he is ready to discuss limiting the number of state questions that will appear on the November ballot. Last session, lawmakers put eight questions on the ballot ranging from voter identification at the polls to Senate approval of a governor’s selection of judges to serve on the workers’ compensation court — two issues Gov. Brad Henry vetoed.
Oklahoma County voters could be asked in December to fund a new Oklahoma County Jail, District 3 County Commissioner Ray Vaughn said Wednesday at a meeting of the Edmond Noon Exchange Club. County Commissioners have until October to decide the location in order to have a ballot initiative this year, he said. The U.S. Department of Justice issued a report in 2008 that the jail is understaffed and overcrowded. Several million dollars’ worth of settlement have been paid by the government due to substandard conditions.
Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly support a proposed state constitutional amendment that would extend term limits to all statewide offices, the latest Oklahoma Poll found. More than three-fourths of the 621 likely voters surveyed said they favor the proposed amendment, which is expected to appear on a statewide ballot this year. Only 17 percent opposed the idea. The proposition, State Question 747, would limit lieutenant governors, attorneys general, state auditors, labor commissioners, insurance commissioners and superintendents of public instruction to two four-year terms.
In a little less than a year, Oklahoma residents will go to polls to decide the fate of a proposed constitutional amendment that would mandate the state provide more funding to public schools. The measure is state question 744, dubbed “HOPE” or “Helping Oklahoma Public Education” by its creators.
The 2010 elections may seem far off. But in the state Capitol folks are already lining up their message and jockeying. Which can only mean the next legislative season will interesting. Lawmakers up for re-election will either be overly cautious, not wanting to offend or they’ll be outlandish, hoping to garner attention and get their name out.
A newly created TIF district will apparently remain in place after a petition drive failed to produce the requisite number of signatures, according to petition sponsors. In a press conference Monday at the Marshall County Courthouse, spokesperson John Wigley of Kingston announced that the group of volunteers working to gather signatures came up about 100 names short.