The Norman Transcript

November 5, 2012

Review of state questions

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — What does a ‘yes,’ ‘no’ vote mean?

With six state questions on the ballot, voters will have a lot of information to remember when they enter the polls. In an effort to inform and educate voters on the upcoming elections, The Transcript has run a series of stories on the questions facing voters, including what a “yes” or “no” vote means. Those articles also attempted to address the main arguments for and against each initiative.

This recap is an attempt to revisit each state question in a summary manner. For more detailed information, check out previous articles online at and click on the Election Coverage link.


Ad valorem taxes affected: Two state questions deal with property taxes. One would lower the cap already in place. The other would prohibit taxing businesses on all intangibles. Public schools oppose both questions, but supporters disagree.

SQ 758:

The measure deals with real property taxes, also called ad valorem taxes. These taxes are based on several factors. One factor is the fair cash value of property. The measure changes the limits on increases in fair cash value. Now, increases are limited to 5 percent of fair cash value in any taxable year. The measure changes the cap on increases to 3 percent for some properties. The 3 percent cap would apply to homestead exempted property. The cap would also apply to agricultural land.

A “yes” vote will mean the 3 percent cap applies.

A “no” vote will defeat the measure and retain the current 5 percent cap

Public entities supported by property taxes such as schools, the Pioneer Library System and county government tend to oppose this question and encourage a “no” vote.

“I think the capping of ad valorem — which is an important local revenue to the district — is significant, but it is really significant in the light of all of the other revenue shortfalls we’re experiencing,” Norman Schools Superintendent Joe Siano said.

In Cleveland County, about 70 percent of property tax supports schools and is determined by the state legislature, according to Cleveland County Assessor David Tinsley.

SQ 766:

This measure amends Section 6A of Article 10 of the Oklahoma Constitution. At present, that section exempts some intangible personal property from ad valorem property taxation. This measure would exempt all intangible personal property from ad valorem property taxation.

An ad valorem property tax is a tax imposed upon the value of property.

The value of intangible personal property is not derived from its physical attributes but rather from what it represents or evidences.

Intangible personal property, which is still currently taxed but would not be if the measure is adopted, includes items such as:

· Patents, inventions, formulas, designs and trade secrets;

· Licenses, franchise and contracts;

· Land leases, mineral interests and insurance policies;

· Custom computer software; and

· Trademarks, trade names and brand names.

If adopted, the measure would apply to property taxation, starting with the tax year that begins on Jan. 1.

SQ 766, if approved, exempts all intangible personal property from ad valorem taxation.

Chamber of Commerce President John Woods said intangible property subject to taxation could include software, client lists, logos, professional licenses and marketing materials. That makes assessment very subjective.

“How do you quantify the value of an item of this nature?” Woods said. “That can vary widely from county to county.”

Cleveland County Assessor David Tinsley said county assessors have a different take on the issue.

“If we have intangibles, that’s because they (the businesses) give it to us,” Tinsley said. “We don’t value intangibles unless the business turns it in. Oklahoma is a self-reporting state. We ask for furniture, fixtures, equipment and inventory.”

Not all intangibles are taxed. Currently, the Oklahoma Constitution exempts certain intangible properties from ad valorem — such as cash and cash on hand, money on deposit, accounts and bills receivable, bonds, promissory notes, stock, property held in trust, annuities and annuity contracts.

The outcome of this vote will not change those exemptions that are already in effect. The business community, in particular large public service providers, supports a “yes” vote.

Voting “yes” on SQ 766 will allow the exemption of intangible personal property from ad valorem taxes.


Affirmative action could be limited: Voters are asked whether affirmative action, even as limited in the Sooner state, is still needed.

SQ 759:

This measure adds a new section to the State Constitution. The measure deals with three areas of government action: employment, education and contracting. In these areas, the measure does not allow affirmative action programs.

Affirmative action programs give preferred treatment based on race, color or gender. They also give preferred treatment based on ethnicity or national origin. Discrimination on these bases also is not permitted.

The measure permits affirmative action in three instances: 1. When gender is a bonafide qualification, it is allowed; 2. Existing court orders and consent decrees that require preferred treatment will continue and can be followed; 3. Affirmative action is allowed when needed to keep or obtain federal funds. The measure applies to the state and its agencies, counties, cities and towns, school districts and other state subdivisions.

A “yes” vote would limit affirmative action in Oklahoma.

Supporters say affirmative action is no longer needed.

Several groups have taken a stance against the measure.

“There is a general belief that affirmative action means a quota system where a less-qualified applicant might get a job or might get admitted to college over a more qualified applicant simply because of race or gender, and that’s just not true,” said Ryan Kiesel, ACLU of Oklahoma executive director. “Quotas have been illegal in Oklahoma for decades, so if that’s what voters are concerned about, then they should rest assured that that law is long settled in the Sooner state.”

As one of the bill’s champions, Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Kingfisher, believes the measure would ban programs that give preferential treatment to any person on the basis of race, sex, color or national origin.


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