- Associated Press - Monday, October 6, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Unlike recent previous elections when Oklahoma voters had a litany of ballot issues to decide, next month there will only be three issues for voters to ponder.

In 2010, voters had eleven questions to consider, and two years later, six questions were on the ballot. Among them were forbidding courts from using Sharia, or Islamic law, making English the state’s official language and requiring voters to show identification at the polls.

All three issues this year have military connections, and two are closely related. All three were sent to voters by the Legislature. Several items proposed by the public failed, including an initiative to put storm shelters in schools and others to ease restrictions on marijuana use.



If approved, this measure would amend the state Constitution to let Oklahoma officeholders also serve and be called to active duty or active service in certain military positions, including as enlisted members of the National Guard, the National Guard Reserve, the Oklahoma State Guard and the Officers Reserve Corps of the United States. Currently, certain officer holders including legislators, state judges, district attorneys and members of state boards, agencies and commissions can’t simultaneously hold certain military positions.

The proposal came about because of problems that popped up for the district attorney for Osage and Pawnee counties. Rex Duncan was deployed to Afghanistan and the Attorney General’s Office ruled his deployment meant he had vacated his elected office. But under federal law, people called to active duty can’t lose their jobs, said Sen. Eddie Fields, R-Wynona, who co-authored the bill. Fields said the measure is meant to align state statute with current federal law.

“We need to make it to where every Oklahoman that serves in the National Guard or current elected official … would not lose their job based on that attorney general’s opinion,” Fields said.



Questions 770 and 771 pertain to homestead tax exemptions for certain individuals. State Question 770 would expand a property tax exemption for disabled veterans and their spouses while Question 771 would expand a property tax exemption to surviving spouses of military personnel killed in the line of duty.

The proposals came up after Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, learned about a woman in Cleveland County who was given a nearly $6,000 tax bill after her husband, a soldier, was killed in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting.

Jennifer and Jason Hunt had been married just under three months when Jason was killed in the Fort Hood rampage on Nov. 5, 2009. The attack left 13 dead and more than 30 injured. Though three anonymous donors ended up paying Jennifer Hunt’s tax bill, the proposed measure would help other spouses in similar situations.

Reynolds said he was surprised to find out that there is a property tax exemption for a disabled veteran and their spouse, but not for the widower of a veteran killed in the line of duty.

“That’s way past 100 percent disabled. We thought that was pretty peculiar and something as simple as that should be remedied,” he said.


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