To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

New Observercast

If You Don’t Like The Constitution In Oklahoma …

on

BY DAVID PERRYMAN

Oklahomans like to attribute the saying “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute and it will change” to favorite son, Will Rogers. We could use a similar phrase about the state’s Constitution.

When the Oklahoma Constitution was approved by territorial voters on Sept. 17, 1907, it was the lengthiest governing document of any government in the United States. During the intervening 111 years, Oklahoma voters have chosen to amend it more than 150 times.

To put that in context, the 229-year lifespan of the United States Constitution has only produced 27 amendments and 10 of those were adopted concurrently with the original Constitution.

There are a couple of reasons for this disparity. Amendments to the U.S. Constitution normally address weighty social issues such as the abolition of slavery or voting rights and to become effective require the ratification of three-fourths of the state legislatures.

On the other hand, amendments to Oklahoma’s Constitution normally address issues that are pursued for the economic benefit of the proponent.

For instance, in 2012, a group of corporate interests convinced citizens of Oklahoma that a constitutional amendment was needed to prevent the state from taxing our grandmothers’ cooking recipes and educator’s teaching certificates.

So convincing were the television advertisements that were financed with hundreds of thousands of dollars donated by multi-million dollar corporations, that voters gave billion-dollar tax breaks exempting the “intangible property” of those corporations from taxation.

On Nov. 6, voters will see five more state questions designed to change the Oklahoma Constitution. Those are:

SQ 793 deals with whether optometrists and opticians can operate businesses in retail establishments;

SQ 794 deals with the constitutional rights of crime victims;

SQ 798 provides for the election of governor and lieutenant governor on the same ticket starting in 2026;

SQ 800 creates a new reserve fund, the “Oklahoma Vision Fund,” designed to receive a portion of gross production tax revenues; and

SQ 801 allows local building fund revenues to be used for school operations.

We’ll explore the pros and cons of each of these ballot questions over the next few weeks but what is disappointing is that there are two much-needed issues that did not make the November ballot.

Oklahoma needs a non-partisan redistricting commission to prevent the party in power [regardless of whether they are Democrats or Republicans] from preserving their power by gerrymandering legislative districts after each census.

We also need to be able to elect our county courthouse officials on a non-partisan ballot. It is ludicrous to think that a county tax assessor, treasurer, sheriff or clerk needs to be elected in a partisan election.

Finally, in the interest of accuracy, it was Mark Twain and not Will Rogers who first expressed the witticism about the changing weather.

Chickasha’s David Perryman serves District 56 in the Oklahoma Houseand is House Democratic Floor Leader

David Perryman
David Perryman
David Perryman has deep roots in Oklahoma and District 56. His great-grandparents settled in western Caddo County in 1902 as they saw Oklahoma as a place of opportunity for themselves and for their children. David graduated from Kinta High School then earned degrees from Eastern Oklahoma State College, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Oklahoma College of Law where he earned his Juris Doctorate. He has been a partner in a local law firm since 1987 and has represented corporations, small businesses, medical facilities, rural water districts, cities, towns, public trusts authorities and non-profit entities for more than 29 years. – David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House