Panel passes Okla. constitutional convention bill

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A panel of the Oklahoma House says it’s time for voters to consider whether the state needs a new constitution: the current version is one of the world’s longest governing documents and includes a declaration that the flashpoint of kerosene is 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

The House Rules Committee voted 6-0 Wednesday to advance a bill by Rep. Gary Banz, R-Midwest City, that would order a statewide referendum on whether Oklahoma should hold a constitutional convention. The bill next goes to the full chamber.

Banz told committee members the current document requires voters to consider a constitutional convention every 20 years, but the last time they were asked was March 17, 1970. A public referendum to eliminate the 20-year reconsideration was defeated in 1994, Banz said.

“That was the last time the people had an opportunity to render judgment on that issue,” Banz said.

Banz has raised the issue previously only to see it die in the Senate. If this plan is approved, the referendum would appear on the general election ballot this fall. If approved by voters, a constitutional convention would be held between July 13, 2015 and June 30, 2016.

Delegates could either revise the current constitution or propose a new one.

Under the bill, 112 delegates would gather - 76 named by the Legislature, 14 from the executive branch, six judges and 16 from the public. Most delegates would be picked by lot.

Any constitutional changes recommended by delegates would be considered by voters in the 2016 general election.

At about 50,000-words long, Oklahoma’s is one of the longest constitutions in the world. Legal scholars have said the state Constitution contains an anti-big business bias that is detrimental to the state’s economic development.

Banz has said lawmakers identified a couple of areas of the 100-year-old state Constitution that might be rewritten if a convention is called, including the document’s declaration of the flashpoint of kerosene. It is officially established by Section 2 of Article XX of the state Constitution as 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Online:

House Joint Resolution 1082: http://bit.ly/1m4uOgF

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