Tulsa Attorney BlogState Question 805: Why Is It a Constitutional Amendment? (Part 2)

In Oklahoma, We Have Direct Democracy

Video Transcribed: Oklahoma State Question 805. Why is it a constitutional amendment? I’m Tulsa Attorney James Wirth. I’m doing a series of videos regarding State Question 805 and this video is regarding it being a constitutional amendment.

So in Oklahoma, we are lucky that we have direct democracy, which means that through an initiative petition, people can go around getting signatures on something, and can actually get it on the ballot for the people to vote. That is the people can make laws on their own without the help of the legislature.

And generally, I’d say that’s considered to be a good thing. In Oklahoma, in order to do that, you need to get 8% of the voting population to sign off on your initiative petition if you want to introduce it to be a new law.

However, if you want it to be a constitutional amendment, you can do that through the initiative petition as well, but you have to have 15% of the voting population sign your petition in order to do that. Well for 805 and the proponents of it, they have been able to get those additional signatures all the way to 15%, and they propose this as a constitutional amendment. So why the extra work to get the 15% to have it a constitutional amendment? Well, it’s clear.

The people and the proponents of this are concerned that the legislature can not be trusted to make determinations on ranges of punishment for crimes.

That they have to, in order to appeal their base, they believe they have to be hard on crime, and therefore they keep making laws that favor prosecutors and making prosecution easier, but it hasn’t necessarily been good for the state of Oklahoma as a whole. So by doing a constitutional amendment, they take some authority away from the legislature because they cannot change this.

So that could be a good thing or a bad thing. People that are against 805 mentioned it being a problem that it’s a constitutional amendment, and I can understand those concerns. Because if the application of this in the real world turns out to be problematic here and there, the legislature cannot pass a law to fix it, because that law would be superseded by the Constitution, which 805 would then be a part of. So that could be scary if there are issues there that can’t be fixed that easily.

But what it also means is that it can’t be watered down by the legislature. They can’t then make new laws that modify this or to make every crime a violent crime so that it’s not applicable to this, at all. So, that’s the reason it’s a constitutional amendment. They want to tie the hands of the legislature a little bit and prevent them from making the laws harder and keeping Oklahoma being the number one incarceration state in the number one incarceration country.

If you’ve got questions about that or your specific circumstances, you can contact somebody at my office. We have the honor of representing not only criminal defendants but also victims of crime in getting their rights heard.

So we’ve got a perspective from both sides where we deal on a one-on-one basis with people that are being prosecuted, as well as people that have been harmed by crime and want justice for that So if you’re in either of those circumstances, want to talk to an attorney about how it may affect you, you can contact somebody at my office by going to makelaweasy.com.

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