The Oklahoma State Supreme Court returned a ruling in the matter of the legal sufficiency of the Referendum Petition 25 as to State Question 799.
The petition sought to refer House Bill 1010xx, which was passed by the 56th Legislature of the State of Oklahoma during its second special session, to a vote of the people for their approval or rejection in the November 2018 general election.
Filed by Dr. Tom Coburn, Brooke McGowan, and Ronda Vuillemont-Smith on May 1, 2018, the petition was quickly responded to by several groups representing educators and students. Those groups filed an action protesting the petition on May 17, 2018.
In the Court’s decision, they concluded that while they are mindful of the sacred right of referendum and their duty to preserve and protect that right, they said the gist of Referendum Petition No. 25 is “misleading for multiple reasons, any of which alone would suffice alone to declare it insufficient.” The Court also said the failure to include an exact copy of the text of the measure to be referred violates statutory mandate that would ensure that signatories and voters are given notice of exactly what law is being submitted for their approval.
Statements from officials who were opposed to the referendum spoke out after the decision was handed down. Oklahoma State School Board Association Executive Director Dr. Shawn Hime said the decision is a victory for Oklahoma children. “The financial uncertainty has hindered teacher retention and recruitment efforts during a critical hiring season,” Hime said. “Amid an historic teacher shortage, I’m grateful school districts can now move forward with finalizing budgets, fully implement the new certified staff salary schedule and guarantee teachers will receive the state’s largest-ever teacher pay raise.”
Current State House Representative for District 48 Pat Ownbey said he believes the Court made the right decision. “House Bill 1010xx was the result of both Republicans and Democrats coming together to work for a common goal,” Ownbey said. “My hope now is that our state can move forward from here by taking the next step in assuring a quality education for our children. I have confidence that we can achieve that goal if educators and legislators work together with that same bi-partisan effort.”
Hime also said he hopes Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite will abandon its effort to overturn the “bold action” of the Oklahoma Legislature in passing the new revenue bill. “It’s time for Oklahoma to move forward, and ensure Oklahomans choose leaders who understand that investment in education and other core state services is the path to prosperity,” Hime said.