The Norman Transcript

November 7, 2012

State votes ‘yes’ to all

By Joy Hampton and Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Oklahoma voters handily passed all six state questions on this year’s ballot.

SQ 766:

One of the most hotly debated issues on the Oklahoma ballot, State Question 766 would exempts all intangible personal property from ad valorem taxation.

“I’m pleased with the outcome of the election on State Question 766,” said Norman Chamber of Commerce President John Woods. “I think it’s an indication that Oklahma supports our businesses and wants to make sure that job growth continues in the state.”

This measure exempts all intangible personal property from ad valorem property taxation. The value of intangible personal property is not derived from its physical attributes but rather from what it represents or evidences.

Norman Public Schools superintendent Joe Siano said 766 will cost school districts approximately $32 million, and 758 will cut $4 million out of the state’s income for education.

Intangible personal property, which is 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.

The measure will apply to property taxation, starting with the tax year that begins on Jan. 1.

SQ 758

Ad valorem will now be capped at 3 percent on homestead exempted property. The measure changes the limits on increases in fair cash value. The cap would also apply to agricultural land.

“You have to respect the voice of the people,” Siano said. “My concern isn’t with the merit of the taxes themselves but the impact they’ll have on public school revenue. I urge communities to ask their legislators to plan for the replacement of lost revenue now that these have passed.”

Though its impact is more long-term, State Question 758’s cap on annual property tax increases could foreseeably have a similarly damaging effect, as it, too will potentially limit the state’s already slim education budget.

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.

“We as a community must look at the plan going forward, replacing both the immediate loss with 766 and the long-term loss with 758. We can’t look at all these iniatives independently of each other, there’s a cumulative effect when all these tax reforms come together. Income tax is a high priority on our government’s agenda, hopefully in the next few months as we see new legislation, closing the gap in education fundsw will be a priority as well.”


SQ 759

This measure limits affirmative action programs. State question 759 would still allow 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.

Supporters say affirmative action is no longer needed.

Several groups, including the ACLU and the League of Women Voters took stands against the measure.


SQ 762

This measure removes the governor from the parole process for persons convicted of nonviolent offenses and enlarges the power and authority of the Pardon and Parole Board by authorizing that board to grant parole to persons convicted of certain offenses defined as nonviolent offenses.

The 2007 audit of the Department of Corrections found that removing the governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenders would save up to $40 million over the course of a decade because of the increased efficiencies and quicker processing of paroles. Proponents of SQ 762 said it will save the state millions of dollars.

“Letting the governor focus on parole recommendations for violent crimes is a critical component of Oklahoma’s recent progress to build a stronger, more effective criminal justice system,” said House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. “Approving this measure will generate tens of millions of dollars in savings that can be reinvested in initiatives that truly reduce and prevent crime.”

SQ 764

The measure creates the Water Infrastructure Credit Enhancement Reserve Fund and increases the Water Resource Board’s ability to provide financing for infrastructure projects. State Question 764 is a vital step toward helping Oklahoma municipalities, trusts and rural water districts fund the needed infrastructure.This measure effectively creates a funding mechanism authorizing $300 million in new financing for water infrastructure enhancements. These revenue bonds will be paid through money collected for the utilities the infrastructure provides.


SQ 765

This measure proposes radical reform of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Following the deaths of children while in DHS custody, controversy and lawsuits brought lawmakers together in a bipartisan effort to reform the old commission method of DHS governance and create a more modern structure.

Approval of State Question 765 abolishes the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Commission of Human Services and the position of director of the Oklahoma DHS. The measure adds a provision to the Constitution authorizing the legislature to create a department or departments to administer and carry out laws to provide for the care of the aged and the needy. The measure also authorizes the legislature to enact laws requiring the newly created department(s) to perform other duties. The measure had local and bipartisan support.


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