What’s on the Ballot

SQ 776

State Question 776 is meant to secure the ability of governments in Oklahoma to pursue the death penalty at will.  The question probably landed on the ballot because of the relatively recent botched attempts via lethal injection.  Our state government wants some protection against future lawsuits, if I had to guess.

The biggest problem with SQ766 is that it presumes our justice system is trustworthy enough to pursue the death penalty at all, which it is not.  We, the People, are punished to the full extent of the law at the discretion of lawyers in various positions.  However, if you have enough money, your punishment can be reduced or avoided altogether.  If you’re politically connected, no charges will be brought against you in the first place.  Think about how corrupt politicians are.  Now think about how many of them go to jail.  Is that really a system we should help secure the death penalty for?

A yes vote secures the government’s ‘right’ to choose to kill people legally.
I will vote no.

SQ 777

Probably the most controversial measure on the ballot, State Question 777 does different things depending on which side is describing it, and that alone should give you pause.  If laws are not clear enough for the common citizen to understand to the fullest extent, then why would we pass them?  Nebraska’s legislature’s Agriculture Committee killed theirs for this very reason, and theirs was almost identical to ours.

SQ777 was introduced by Scott Biggs (a house representative for Oklahoma congressional district 51).  Scott has a 100% approval rating from the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.  The Farm Bureau lobbies for agricultural corporations that harm small farmers.  They donate lots of money to political campaigns through the insurance side of their business.  They have over 20 lobbyists working in D.C., and together with the corporate hog farming lobby, represent two of the most powerful supporters of SQ777.

Corporate hog farms have proven time and again to be a severe nuisance to small farmers of any stripe due to waste runoff and unbearably foul odors.  Small farmers have thus far been able to take these corporate hog farms to court with a fair chance at compensation for making it nearly impossible to continue their work.  SQ777 would make it much more difficult for small and independent farmers to protect themselves through legal action.

Now supporters of SQ777 (including a number of misguided or misquoted small farmers) will tell you that PETA and other environmental organizations are trying to stop the measure, and that’s true.  But it’s simple probability that every once in a while reasonable people will find themselves on the same side of an issue as much less reasonable activist groups.  Their opposition to SQ777 is not an indicator that it’s a good measure, but merely that it might be bad for the environment or animals.  The pollution in this case is real, but local.  It isn’t about climate change, it’s about safeguarding the average person’s right to farm from the corporate lobby’s tendency to infringe on those rights.

SQ777 supporters argue it’s a solution to a problem, yet here in Oklahoma our agricultural sector is in no danger from environmentalist groups, who have almost no influence in our state.  Plus, Oklahoma already has some strong legal protections in place in the event that that changes.

They’re trying to be sneaky, and it all began with how they branded it…’Right to Farm’ sounds so nice, right?  I guess if you trust lawyers, legislators, and corporations, then you should feel comfortable voting yes.

A yes vote for SQ 777 might protect farms of all sizes from future state regulation, but it will also make it very difficult for small farmers to protect themselves from the harmful mass production practices of corporate farms.

I will vote no.

Here’s Tom with the weather.


SQ 779

State Question 779 is a sales tax increase supposedly meant to fund education. However, the lottery was supposed to fund education, and once it was passed they took an amount of money equal to what the lotto was bringing in, right out of the back of the educational budget. They neutered that initiative to fund their wasteful spending practices, and they might well do the same with any future monies we agree to giving them.

Additionally, localities will have the option to match the increase from 4.5 cents (in Lawton) to 5.5 cents.  Even if our honorable city council chooses not to raise their sales tax revenue (how likely is that?), it will give Oklahoma one of the highest sales taxes in the country, making us less competitive in the marketplace.

In any case, there’s no reason to trust them with a sales tax increase.

Once again, I will vote no.

SQ 780

As much as I’m beginning to think voting no all the way down might be the appropriate way to respond to government questions, 780 seems to be a good thing, by itself.  It turns any damages from theft felony threshold from $500 to $1000, so that now any such damages not exceeding one thousand dollars will be a misdemeanor charge.  The other part of 780 reduces small drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors.  Due to how destructive a felony charge is to a person’s life, these changes are in the right direction.

But keep in mind, the only reason they handed us this one is that they’ve found a way to monetize it.  These aren’t good people.  With 780, they’re helping us cross the street to leave us stranded dead center.

But alone it seems to benefit Oklahoma residents by reducing mass incarceration costs and keeping some folks out of prison.
I will vote yes.

SQ 781

SQ781 takes the money no longer spent on incarceration thanks to 780 and redirects it into a pool to be split up between Oklahoma’s counties, earmarked for rehabilitation and mental health services.  Great effort has been made to connect 780 and 781 in the minds of you, the voters, and here’s why I think that is.

Though the ‘Drug War’ began with Nixon (1971), Reagan was the one to give it the modern, militarized shine it carries today.  He kicked it off in the mid-80’s.  Around the same time (1984) some businessmen got together to start up what would become the Wackenhut corporation.  Some of you may remember Wackenhut, because it eventually re-branded as GEO, our friendly neighborhood corrections facility.  Some of you might be interested to know that Serco, a company based out of the United Kingdom, is another contractor of incarceration services …you know, the one that also manages healthcare applications under the new law for the federal government over on 67th Street.  They received a $1.25 billion dollar contract in 2013 to manage the implementation of the inaptly named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  It’s a little off-topic, but it seems like they sought out U.S. contracts because of the numerous scandals they’ve been caught in over in their home country, from running fight clubs to overcharging to sexual abuse.

The top two prison contractors that are active in the U.S. are CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) and The GEO Group, Inc, with 65 and 57 facilities respectively.    They might have begun in the U.S., but they are now multinational organizations, capable of shaping government policy, and completely unresponsive to the average American.

And so it was that by the late 80’s, private companies were monetizing the incarceration of the general population, mainly for non-violent offenses laden with mandatory minimum sentences.

Now how is this relevant to SQ781?

Well, these corporations are gearing up to provide the rehabilitation and mental health services that an increasing number of states and cities will be transitioning towards as drug policy in the U.S. shifts away from Reagan, Bush, and Clinton’s ‘Superpredator’ extremism to a softer but just as consistent ‘catch-and-release’ government regulated rehab racket.  It goes without saying that the multinational pharmaceutical companies will have another access point to Americans in the way of those convicted of possession misdemeanors who will be required to get treatment through government sanctioned institutions.

When we allow through 781 the state to take the lead in establishing paths to mental health and rehabilitation services, whether by directing the counties on which companies they can use for such services, or by offering those companies the contracts regardless, our communities continue to depend on the same machine that’s been incarcerating and ruining lives this entire time.  If we’re going to move away from the state-generated destruction of the past 50 years, let’s learn from that experience and work to avoid the state’s continued role in our transition to a more free society.  Government will not willingly clear a path to less government.

I will vote no on 781.



SQ 790

SQ790 removes language in Article 5, Section 2 of the state constitution.

Public Money or Property – Use for Sectarian Purposes

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.

This measure is a response to the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling against the Ten Commandments monument remaining on our government’s lawn.

Now this may not matter, because SCOTUS already ruled on a situation almost exactly like this, and they progressively ruled in favor of ‘government speech.’

But why would we have such language in our constitution in the first place?

Ever hear of the Separation of Church and State?  Thomas Jefferson and James Madison supported it along with some others before and after them.  Most over the course of U.S. history have not.  It is the observation that the state, which is coercive by nature, is not a suitable conduit for matters of faith, which are by nature voluntary and personal.  Roger Williams, a Puritan minister from the 17th century, made a succinct case for it’s necessity:

“Williams believed that preventing error in religion was impossible, for it required people to interpret God’s law, and people would inevitably err. He therefore concluded that government must remove itself from anything that touched upon human beings’ relationship with God. A society built on the principles Massachusetts espoused would lead at best to hypocrisy, because forced worship, he wrote, “stincks in God’s nostrils.” At worst, such a society would lead to a foul corruption—not of the state, which was already corrupt, but of the church.”
The full story here.


Non-Christians will probably think this an easy ‘no.’
Christians will think this measure an easy ‘yes’.
However, if you believe the function of the Church is to spread the message of Jesus, then voting yes is an act against that end.  The state, any government, is corrupt by nature, and must be constantly checked.  We’ve already seen that society is not willing to be that vigilant.  So what happens when government lays it’s hands on symbols of the Christian faith?  The same thing that happens to anything they lay their hands on – it is corrupted.
Government is force.  God is love.  Those who have faith in love should work with great conviction to keep force out of the equation of their faith.
I will vote no.

SQ 792

At a glance I supported 792.  It allows wines and liquors to be sold in additional locations like Walmart (who it happens financed the initiative to the tune of $1.6 million).

I thought, hey, a freer marketplace for alcohol!

But I kept reading the posts of others who had done more digging than I had, and finally learned enough to realize that 792 is just another example of governments taking a single 5lb weight off the 1000lb pile of regulation that exists (in this case on the alcohol industry), for the benefit of the political entrepreneurs lobbying them.

For example, if a liquor store sells a minor alcohol, it’s a felony.  If Walmart does it, it’s a misdemeanor.  Walmart is 24/7, while liquor stores by law must close by 9 or 10pm.  Just two quick examples.

Our state and local governments do need to deregulate the alcohol industry and stop treating residents like untrustworthy children, but removing one tiny filament of that pile of nonsense to benefit some of their friends in the lobbying industry is not how this should play out.  Use this as an opportunity to tell your government NO.  I mean, how often do you get to do that?  Once every four years?

I will vote no.

About the Author

Grew up in Jackson, MS. Moved to Lawton in '92, went to Tomlinson, then Lawton High, then back to Mississippi for some community college. Finished a degree in politics, economics and philosophy back in '05ish. Haven't used it since. There's much more to anyone's story, of course, but for that you'll have to ask.

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