Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cockroft Column - 2014 State Questions

    As the November election approaches, I like to do my part to remind everyone of the state questions that will be on the ballot. I have the benefit of already voting once for each of these questions since the legislature recommends each question before being sent to the public to vote on. Oklahoma has one of the largest state constitution's in the nation. In order to change policy, we often have to make constitutional changes. These policy changes require the direct input of Oklahomans. 

    The first state question on this year's ballot addresses military service while in public office. In the past, many officials have had to step down in order to serve our country. A vote of yes on State Question 789 will allow state legislators, agency commission and board members, statewide officials, judges, district attorneys and county officials to serve in state military services while in office. A vote of no will mean that officials continue to serve either in public office or a military role, but not both. This question began with a legal challenge and was passed as Senate Joint Resolution 33 by the legislature in 2013.

    The other two state questions that will appear on the ballot concern homestead exemptions. State Question 770 asks voters to do decide whether or not to allow a homestead exemption for qualifying disabled veterans or their surviving spouse. State Question 771 asks voters to decide whether or not to create a homestead exemption for the surviving spouse of military men and women who die in the line of duty. Both of these questions were contained in House Bill 2621 passed by the legislature this past spring. Our veterans and their families have sacrificed and given so much to our country, these simple measures are the least we can do to say thank you. Oklahoma is currently the most friendly state for veterans and their families to live in. I pray this is a trend we continue in.

    Past years' ballots have been stuffed full of state questions on various issues which can be confusing and controversial. This comes as a testimony to the legislature’s ability to work with the Governor’s office and each other and the large amount which has been accomplished through state questions to change our state constitution in the last decade. I think it is a nice change that they will focus exclusively this year on veterans' issues. I believe each of these three questions is worthy of a yes vote.

    In other state news, lawmakers continue to conduct policy studies in October. House committees have studied fracking, school funding, agency revolving funds and state care for veterans and seniors. These studies help us to plan for next year's budget discussions and policy questions. Information on the studies can be found at: http://www.okhouse.gov/Committees/ShowInterimStudies.aspx. We also record audio from these meetings, which can be found at http://www.okhouse.gov/Video/Default.aspx. These meetings are also open to the public at the Capitol. We always welcome your participation in your government. 

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