During the past few days I have received several questions from those who are worried about the possible implications of voting for State Question 754. They are worried because of this statement which has been appended to the question’s ballot title: “Thus, under the measure, once adopted, the measure could not be effectively amended. Nor could it be repealed.”
This is understandably a reason for concern because no one wants to vote for something which cannot be amended. However, the statement that it cannot be amended is completely false. The bill states that provisions of the Constitution cannot force the Legislature to appropriate money by a pre-determined formula such as the one proposed by State Question 744 (the effort to force the Legislature to appropriate common education funds based on the way other states appropriate education funds). However, nothing in the bill prevents the people of Oklahoma from amending this section of the Constitution in the future.
The Attorney General has the power to change the way the ballot title reads before it is submitted to a vote of the people and this ballot title was changed by the Attorney General’s office. This is an extremely important responsibility because very few people ever read the bill and will be completely dependant on the ballot title to give them a proper perspective of the Constitutional change.
Here is the ballot title for SQ 754 as approved by the Legislature. This is the version most people will never see:
“This measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It would add a new Section 55A to Article 5. It relates to the state budget. It relates to the ability of the Legislature to spend money each year. It would allow the Legislature to make decisions about the state budget. The Legislature would be able to decide how much money to spend each year. The Legislature would not be required to spend a certain amount of money for any one government service or function. If this amendment is adopted, the Oklahoma Constitution could not require the Legislature to do this. If this amendment is adopted, the Oklahoma Constitution could not require the Legislature to make spending decisions based on how much money any other state spent.”
Here is the title as re-written by the Attorney General:
“This measure adds a new section to the Oklahoma Constitution. It adds Section 55A to Article 5. The Legislature designates amounts of money to be used for certain functions. These designations are called appropriations. The measure deals with the appropriation process. The measure limits how the Constitution could control that process. Under the measure the Constitution could not require the Legislature to fund state functions based on:
1. Predetermined constitutional formulas, 2. How much other states spend on a function, 3. How much any entity spends on a function.
Under the measure, these limits on the Constitution's power to control appropriations would apply even if: 1. A later constitutional amendment changed the Constitution, or 2. A constitutional amendment to the contrary was passed at the same time as this measure.
Thus, under the measure, once adopted, the measure could not be effectively amended. Nor could it be repealed.”
It’s important to reiterate that nothing in the bill prevents the people of Oklahoma from voting to repeal or amending Section 55A of the Constitution. You can see for yourself by reading the actual bill (http://bit.ly/cHbyGG).