In addition to state and national races, voters will decide two state questions on November 3.
*State Question 805 would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to end the use of sentence enhancements for people convicted of nonviolent crimes.
*State Question 814 would amend the Oklahoma constitution to change the way Oklahoma’s tobacco settlement money is distributed.
According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute people who are currently sentenced to prison can
have their sentences extended if they have prior
felony convictions. Under State Question 805, people convicted of
nonviolent felonies could still receive the maximum
sentence for that crime, but would not receive
additional time — called a “sentence enhancement”
— due to past convictions. In addition, this measure
would allow people to petition a court to have their
sentences shortened if they are currently in prison for
nonviolent convictions and had received a sentence
enhancement. A fiscal analysis of SQ 805 by the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs estimates that the ballot
measure would reduce the prison population by about 8.5 percent and save the state up to $186
million over the next 10 years
Supporters of SQ 805 say,
*Sentence enhancements have no proven public safety benefit, but cost the state millions in
*People sentenced to prison can still be given the maximum sentence under current law, and those
maximums can still be changed by the Legislature. SQ 805 would simply disallow a longer sentence
than the maximum because of a prior nonviolent conviction.
*A fiscal analysis of SQ 805 by the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs estimates that the ballot measure would reduce the prison population by about 8.5 percent and save the state up to $186 million over the next 10 years.
Opponents of SQ 805 say,
*It would prevent future changes to the list of offenses classified as violent for the purposes of
sentence enhancements. Some offenses — simple and domestic assault and battery — should be
included, but cannot be added later if SQ 805 passes.
*Amending the Constitution goes around the legislative process and prevents lawmakers from
making adjustments to the law.
*Sentencing enhancements are important to maintain because they allow prosecutors to step up
punishments for repeat offenders, and this takes away their ability to increase punishments beyond the statutory maximum.
State Question 814 would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to change the way Oklahoma’s tobacco
settlement money is distributed.
Every year, Oklahoma receives a payout from the 1998
tobacco lawsuit settlement. Seventy-five percent
of the funds are placed in the Tobacco Settlement
Endowment Trust (TSET), and the other 25 percent is
split between the Legislature and the Attorney General.
SQ 814 would switch the percentages, with 75 percent
going to the Legislature and 25 percent going into
the endowment fund. It would also mandate that
the funds directed to the Legislature be used to help
fund the state’s Medicaid program. Funds going to the
Attorney General would continue to come out of the
Supporters of SQ814 say,
*The endowment fund currently has over $1 billion dollars, so TSET should be able to continue
funding research, prevention, and health initiatives in Oklahoma even if this change is implemented. *This change could generate close to $50 million annually, which could help fund Medicaid expansion
without raising revenues.
*Using the settlement payments to help fund health care in Oklahoma could help keep the state
from having to cut existing patient services or reduce the amount paid to health care providers.
Opponents of SQ814 say,
*TSET is funding important health initiatives, and over time, this ability will diminish, as a smaller
deposit to the trust fund will mean lower interest earnings in the future. Voter approval of Medicaid
expansion shouldn’t mean another public health measure loses funding, especially when strong
health infrastructure is more important than ever.
*The language does not specify that the funds must be used for Medicaid expansion, leading to
concerns that the funds could be used to replace existing Medicaid funding and leave the state
without a way to fund expansion.
*There are other ways to fund expansion without a tax increase, including reductions in tax incentives,
an increase on hospital fees, and retaining a fee on insurance plans.
The fate of these two state questions will be determined when Oklahoma voters go to the polls on Nov. 3.
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