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Oklahoma voters face another school decision

Oklahoma voters face another school decision

This article first appeared in The Oklahoman.

BY JULIE BISBEE
Published: May 21, 2009

The state Senate passed a measure that, if OK’d by voters, would bar another ballot proposal from requiring Oklahoma to fund education at levels similar to neighboring states.

House Joint Resolution 1014 reinforces the power of the state Legislature to set a yearly budget. The resolution also says the Legislature would not be forced to give one agency more money than another.

The measure is now one of eight measures put on the 2010 ballot by the Legislature. It seeks to limit the power of another state question put on the ballot earlier by an initiative petition. The group Helping Oklahoma Public Education submitted enough signatures to put a proposal on the ballot that would require the Legislature to fund education on a per-student basis, equal to the regional average. Officials estimate that, if passed by voters, it could require an additional $85 million a year for public education.

What’s the reaction?
"This was slapped together to muddy the waters,” said Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant. "Don’t come out here and try to trick us. Let us make a clear choice in November. We don’t need this. If the HOPE petition passes, then let’s come back and fix this.”

Sen. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond, the Senate sponsor of the measure, said the question on the ballot is to protect the power of the state Legislature.

"Without this measure, citizens in other states will decide how this state spends money,” he said. "It takes away our authority.”

Sen. Joe Sweeden, D-Pawhuska, argued against the measure, saying the ballot already has too many questions. During his debate, he unfurled several ballots taped together that touched the ground.

"This is how long our ballot is going to be,” Sweeden said. "Is that fair to the people of Oklahoma? They’re either not going to vote or vote no. They sent us down here to pass legislation. Let’s stop doing this to the people.”

HJR 1014 has passed the House and now goes to a vote of the people.

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