OKLAHOMA CITY – In less than a month, voters will be heading to the polls to decide on several key state races.
In addition to the state races, Oklahoma voters will also voice their opinions on five state questions.
State Question 793 would allow eye care facilities inside large retail stores, like Walmart and Target.
If approved by a majority of voters in November, SQ 793 would amend the state constitution to allow optometrists and opticians to practice in retailers and allow the legislature to regulate them. Currently, Oklahoma law prohibits getting eyes examined and filling eyeglasses prescription within the same store.
Currently, 47 other states already have eye care facilities inside retailers. Oklahoma is one of only three states that currently prohibit optometrists from opening practices in commercial settings.
“This law will give patients more access, more affordability and more choices,” Tim Tippit, the chairman of Yes on 793, told News 4.
However, some optometrists believe it is ultimately about corporate profit and not the patient.
“That is not good for any person, to be a part of healthcare systems that are managed by someone that is basically adding dollars to their bottom line,” said Dr. Selina McGee, a local optometrist.
State Question 794, also known as Marsy's Law, is a measure that guarantees certain rights for crime victims.
Marsy’s Law is an initiative started in 1983 after Marsy Nicholas, a California college student, was allegedly stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend. A week later, Marsy’s mother ran into the accused murderer at the grocery store, and had no idea he’d been released on bail.
Since then, Marsy’s Law has been enacted in five states.
If approved by voters, the measure, among other things, would require victims to be notified and be heard in most criminal proceedings and prohibit “unreasonable delay” of criminal cases.
The head of a national organization of criminal defense attorneys says the law is mostly unnecessary and poses numerous additional requirements for prosecutors.
State Question 798 would allow candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run on a joint ticket, much like candidates for U.S. president and vice president.
Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor in Oklahoma are currently elected separately, meaning candidates from different political parties could hold the state's top two offices.
The proposal passed out of the Legislature earlier this year and would not take effect until 2026.
State Question 800 would create the "Oklahoma Vision Fund" as a way to prevent the boom and bust effect of the oil industry on state agencies. If approved, five percent of the total collections from the gross production tax would be deposited into the fund, beginning in 2020. That amount would then increase by 0.2% each year.
Supporters like Mike Jackson, executive vice president of government and political affairs for the State Chamber, told NewsOK that about $20 million to $35 million would likely be put into the fund each year, depending on oil prices.
Initially, Jackson says school districts could expect to see a little bit less in terms of funding, but should expect funding increases after eight years.
"At the same time we were cutting education, having core services cut, those other states — and I'll just point to Wyoming and North Dakota — those states were making significant improvements in their budgetary efforts toward priorities like infrastructure and education ... That's one of the reasons why we think this solution is important for Oklahoma moving forward," he told the newspaper.
However, school districts say the measure is too vague and they worry about any decrease in funding.
No more than five percent of the Vision Fund could be used for service payments due to bonds or other financing instruments. Four percent of the average annual principal balance of the endowment fund could be transferred to the General Revenue Fund each year.
State Question 801 would give local school boards the option to use existing property tax revenue for use in the classroom, such as teacher pay and textbooks, without raising taxes. Revenue is currently primarily used for building funds.
Oklahoma Achieves, an education initiative of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, says the measure would give school districts more flexibility when it comes to spending.
“It is hard to believe a teacher’s union opposes an effort to put more money in the classroom. SQ 801 gives local school boards flexibility to use existing money in the classroom for things like teacher pay, technology and textbooks without raising taxes," executive director Jennifer Monies said in a statement to News 4. "This measure doesn’t require school districts to change anything unless it makes sense for their local community.”
However, officials with the Oklahoma State School Boards Association says the measure won't end up helping schools.
"While we love flexibility, this is not going to be a solution to help schools have more money that they’re just sitting on or that they can’t spend on salaries or other things," OSSBA executive director Shawn Hime said. "If a school did choose to take this money and put it in a recurring cost, an annual cost…then what do you do when you need a new roof? What do you do when your carpet wears out – just like in our home, we have to continue to take care of that maintenance and upkeep and if we’re not doing it with the building fund, then they have the funds to take care of it?"
"We don’t have enough to do everything we need to do. We always have ongoing maintenance repairs, facility issues that we need to deal with…roof repair, HVAC units," Dr. April Grace, superintendent of Shawnee Public Schools, said. "There are all kinds of issues we’re constantly dealing with in our facilities with the age of the school buildings that many of us have."
Voters will head to the polls on Nov. 6.