Oklahoma 2008 ballot news archive

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Note: This page includes short news headlines as they happen. If you scroll through the page and read earlier headlines, information pertaining to the events in those sections may have changed significantly since the section was posted.
==Oklahoma legislator proposes union limitation==

Sally Kern, a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, has proposed legislation that would prevent teacher's unions from "distributing materials at professional meetings for the purpose of influencing the results of an election for state or local office or a ballot measure, or for the purpose of soliciting funds for or against a candidate for state or local office or a ballot measure." Jill Dudley, president of the Moore Association of Classroom Teachers, said, Kern comes "out against us anytime we seem to do anything." Kern says she wants to protect Oklahoma teachers from listening to political advocacy at official school activities.[1]

Oklahoma City Council asks voters for higher salaries

Oklahoma City Council members decided today to let voters decide on several changes to the city charter — including one that would double the salary of the mayor and council members.

The changes were on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The change, if approved, would pay the mayor $48,000 a year and council members $24,000 a year. The pay increases would go into effect after the next election for each office, in accordance with state law.

Other charter changes on November’s ballot address when council members can appoint temporary replacements in case of the resignation or death of a council member, lowering the age requirements for mayor and council, how the vice mayor is selected and a clarification of an ordinance preventing city officers and employees from having an interest in city contracts.

The council also agreed to set a special election for Nov. 4 to replace Ward 6 Councilwoman Ann Simank, who resigned last week when her son was accepted to the city’s fire training academy. The charter prevents council members from serving if they have a relative on staff.[2]


UPDATE: School funding petition drive kicks off

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A petition drive to boost Oklahoma spending on public education began Thursday and immediately drew criticism from Republican lawmakers.

The HOPE, or Helping Oklahoma Public Education, campaign aims to amend the state constitution and require the Legislature to fund public education to at least the per-pupil average of neighboring states.

Rallies in Sand Springs and Midwest City were held in support of the petition. At the Capitol, three Republican House members criticized the plan at a news conference. House Education Chairman Tad Jones of Claremore said it would likely force a tax increase, while other lawmakers said it could lead to school consolidation and cuts in road funding.

The petition drive is backed by the Oklahoma Education Association, among other groups, and is intended to collect 200,000 signatures by the first week of November. That goal is well above the 138,970 needed to place the question on the ballot.

Paid circulators and volunteers plan to canvass state fairs and college and high school football games across the state to collect the signatures.

While Oklahoma provides per-pupil funding of $6,900, Missouri, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Colorado and New Mexico have an average investment of $8,300 per pupil, according to OEA figures. Oklahoma currently ranks 48th out of the 50 states in per-pupil expenditure.

At Charles Page High School in the Tulsa suburb of Sand Springs, teachers from across the state told stories of doing more with less in Oklahoma's public schools: students who are forced to share textbooks, cutbacks in art classes and extracurricular activity travel and one school's track team running in a parking lot because it lacked the necessary facilities.

"Each year, it's a battle to get our kids what they deserve," said Mike Bynum, who teaches physics and chemistry at the high school and is the head boys basketball coach. "What we're asking is something that goes completely against our nature: we're asking to be average.

"Imagine what we can do if we were just average," he said.

Parent Shelley Ogan, who volunteers for Tulsa Public Schools, described the shortages of supplies most take for granted at any school: printer paper and ink cartridges. The initiative would require lawmakers to re-prioritize the state budget to fund education and would not require a tax increase, supporters say.

Once the petitions are submitted in November, there is a period to challenge the signatures. After that, the governor can decide to set a special election for voters to decide the question, or the matter would automatically be put on the next general election ballot in 2010, according to the OEA.

"If we want better workers, stronger employees, a well-educated workforce, we have to make public education a priority," said Becky Felts, OEA vice president.[3]


It's toast: State ballot blander than in past

Oklahoma has had its share of "sexy” ballot initiatives this decade, but 2008 will be an exception, says a journalist from the Oklahoman Editorial. While voters elsewhere are weighing in on gay marriage, abortion restrictions, English-only measures and legalizing assisted suicide, the November Oklahoma ballot will be blander than dry toast. Since 2000, voters have banned cockfighting, outlawed gay marriage, raised the tobacco tax, created a state lottery, extended casino gaming options and allowed the sale of liquor on Election Day.[4]


Governor puts state questions on ballot

OKLAHOMA CITY - Governor Brad Henry has signed the authorization to place four proposed state questions on the November 4, 2008 General Election ballot. State questions 735, 741, 742 and 743. The first two initiatives are for property tax exemptions, and the others deal with game & fish regulations, and winemakers being able to deal directly with restaurants, cutting out the wholesaler.[5]


Education petition seeks more state funding

The Oklahoma Education Association is planning a petition drive designed to raise $850 million initially for schools by requiring the state to fund schools at the regional average.

Called the HOPE ballot initiative — Helping Oklahoma Public Education — the initiative petition proposes amending the Oklahoma Constitution to require the regional average in per-pupil funding for schools.[6] (Read the full story)


Civil Rights Initiative sponsors move to withdraw due to insufficient signatures

Lawyers for Oklahoma City attorney W. Devin Resides, sponsor of the Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative—which would have ended race and gender preferences in public employment, public education, and public contracting—filed a motion with the Oklahoma Supreme Court April 4, 2008, to withdraw the proposed ballot measure, State Question 737, from consideration.[7]

The initiative was being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union. Chuck Norton, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma, charged that the signature-gathering process was riddled with errors.[8]

The motion to withdraw said that the validity rate of signatures would have to be unrealistically high in order to qualify for the ballot. The Secretary of State's Office counted 141,184 signatures on petitions filed by the group in December but found a large number of duplicates. Making the ballot requires 138,970 valid signatures.

The backers "do not want to waste this Court's efforts nor taxpayer money on pursuing State Question 737 when (the backers) are reasonably certain that it will fail to garner the requisite number of signatures."[7]


Task Force bill is killed in Senate committee after AG lobbying

A bill to create a task force to review Oklahoma's petition process, with the intention of improving the initiative process, was killed in a Senate committee on March 31, 2008, after Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson lobbied Democrats against letting the bill to the floor.

"A Democratic legislator, who wants to remain anonymous for fear of political retribution, has confided to me that Attorney General Edmondson has lobbied against bills to reform the petition process," said Norma Sapp, executive director of Oklahomans for Initiative Rights. "Why? What is Edmonson afraid of? What are these Democratic Senators afraid of? This bill would simply allow legislators to find out the facts about the petition process and to discuss possible solutions. How can anyone be against having more information?"

The Oklahoma Political News Service posted Sapp's version of the story, which concluded: "It may be normal politics but it isn't right."


Term limits on state officials passes state Senate

State Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-Owasso) attached an amendment to SB 1987 that would place an eight-year limit on the Governor's term and a 12-year limit on the terms of other statewide elected officials. The measure, if passed by the House, would be put before Oklahoma voters as a proposed constitutional amendment.

Brogdon's amendment was adopted on a 26 to 22 vote on March 13, 2008, after which the Senate passed SB 1987 by a vote of 31 to 17.

"Term limits have brought fresh ideas and innovative thinking to the state Legislature, and I believe term limits can have a similarly positive effect on statewide offices," Brogdon said.[9]


Task Force to review petition process approved by House

A bill creating a task force to review Oklahoma's petition process, with the intention of improving the initiative process, passed the state House on March 13, 2008. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Oklahoma City) and Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-Owasso).[10]


Oklahoma lawsuit challenges Civil Rights Initiative petition

Ten Oklahoma voters, including State Reps. Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City and Jabbar Shumate of Tulsa, have filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court challenging the validity the Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative petition.

They argue the petition is an attempt to trick voters into ending equal opportunity programs. Chuck Norton, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma, charges that the signature-gathering process was riddled with errors.[11]


Two bills pass Oklahoma House subcommittee

Two bills passed the Oklahoma House subcommittee on elections and redistricting Feb. 20, 2008, that would affect the initiative and referendum process there.

HB 3350 from Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Oklahoma City) would expand the petitioning time from 90 days to one year and specifically outlaws harassment of petitioners. The measure also increases the penalties for those who collect fraudulent signatures as well as for those who fraudulently sign petitions.

The other bill, HB 2869, from Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, bans per-signature payments to petitioners and requires people to register with the government to circulate petitions. Both bills require circulators to be registered voters, which the U.S. Supreme Court has already struck down.[12]


Bill to require petitioners to be registered voters

Senate Bill 1913, by state Sen. Jeff Rabon (D-Hugo) and state Rep. Jabar Shumate (D-Tulsa), would require all individuals gathering signatures for an initiative petition to be registered Oklahoma voters. The proposal also would allow signers of the petition to have their names removed if they change their minds.[13]


Rep. Jabar Shumate (D-Tulsa), one of the sponsors of pending Senate Bill 1913 which would make it more difficult to get an initiative on the ballot in Oklahoma, has been under pressure lately, even from members of his own party. He is being urged to step down from his position as assistant minority leader after news broke in late January that Shumate had failed to file his state tax return for 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2006.[14]

"Some of us are sick and tired of the irresponsibility of some (members) making all of us look bad," said a rural Democrat. "I'm so tired of hearing about this from my folks...." [15]

Governor puts state questions on ballot

OKLAHOMA CITY - Governor Brad Henry has signed the authorization to place four proposed state questions on the November 4, 2008 General Election ballot. State questions 735, 741, 742 and 743. The first two initiatives are for property tax exemptions, and the others deal with game & fish regulations, and winemakers being able to deal directly with restaurants, cutting out the wholesaler.[16]


Education petition seeks more state funding

The Oklahoma Education Association is planning a petition drive designed to raise $850 million initially for schools by requiring the state to fund schools at the regional average. Called the HOPE ballot initiative — Helping Oklahoma Public Education — the initiative petition proposes amending the Oklahoma Constitution to require the regional average in per-pupil funding for schools.[6]


Civil Rights Initiative sponsors move to withdraw due to insufficient signatures

Lawyers for Oklahoma City attorney W. Devin Resides, sponsor of the Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative—which would have ended race and gender preferences in public employment, public education, and public contracting—filed a motion with the Oklahoma Supreme Court April 4, 2008, to withdraw the proposed ballot measure, State Question 737, from consideration.[7]

The initiative was being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union. Chuck Norton, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma, charged that the signature-gathering process was riddled with errors.[17] Read full item here

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