A handful of Republican lawmakers are looking to add requirements for initiative petitions and referendums to reach the ballot and become law.

Combing through bills after the Jan. 19 filing deadline, I identified five joint resolutions that look to raise the threshold needed for state questions to pass or implement new signature collection requirements, such as requiring a percentage of signatures in every congressional district or county.

Over the last seven years, voters have approved ballot initiatives implementing criminal justice reform, expanding Medicaid and legalizing medical marijuana. After voters approved the Medicaid expansion question by a thin margin in June 2020, some lawmakers began voicing concerns that the process favors urban voters and is tainted by out-of-state influence.

Oklahoma’s initiative petition process is protected in the state Constitution, and any legislative attempt to modify the Constitution has to go through the people. So voters will get the final say on any one of these measures via a state question if they clear the Legislature.

Last year, similar proposals looking to clamp down on state questions cleared the House on party-line votes but fizzled out in the Senate. As the resolutions were being considered, experts warned that additional requirements could make it next to impossible for all but the most well-funded groups to get a question on the ballot.

Want to dive deeper into this issue? In my next story, I examine how lawmakers are aiming to change election, voting and initiative petition laws. Look for that to publish Tuesday morning.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this issue. Do you think the current initiative petition process needs reform to better include rural Oklahoma? Or are some legislators trying to circumvent the will of the people by proposing restrictions? Let me know at Kross@Oklahomawatch.org.

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What I’m Reading This Week

  • Senate Leader Wants a More ‘Methodical’ Approach to Sports Betting: House Bill 1027 by Ken Luttrell, R-Ponca City, which proposes legalizing sports betting, will need to clear both the House and Senate to reach the Governor’s desk. While Gov. Kevin Stitt has voiced support for legalized sports betting, Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat said he is not interested in moving sports betting “by itself.” [The Frontier]
  • Proposal Could Change How State Superintendent is Selected: House Joint Resolution 1030 by Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, proposes allowing the governor to appoint the state superintendent beginning in 2030. It would require voter approval via a state question if it clears the Legislature. [CNHI]
  • Oklahoma AG Appoints Independent Counsel in Glossip Case: Former District Attorney Rex Duncan will review all aspects of Richard Glossip’s case, including the initial investigation by Oklahoma City police, two separate trials, sentencing and appeals. Glossip is scheduled for execution on May 18. [The Associated Press]

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