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Oklahomans Reject State Questions on Sentencing Reform, Tobacco Funding Change


Oklahomans voted down both state questions on Tuesday’s ballot.

State Question 805 was voted down 61% to 39%. It would have ended the use of sentence enhancements for nonviolent felony crimes.

A report from the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs found such enhancements are used 80% of the time, despite prosecutors’ claims they use them selectively.

Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform Executive Director Kris Steele said the state’s second-highest in the nation incarceration rate still needs to be addressed.

"We must do better. The people in Oklahoma are not worse than the people who live in other places in the United States — or the world," Steele said.

Many sheriffs and 26 of the state's 27 district attorneys opposed SQ805.

Oklahomans also rejected State Question 814 on a 59% to 41% margin. It was opposed by prominent medical groups, including the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

State lawmakers put it on the ballot to find funding for Medicaid expansion. It would swap the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust’s 75% annual share of settlement payments with the legislature’s 25%. That would account for roughly $60 million of Oklahoma’s  estimated $160 million in Medicaid costs.

In a virtual news conference last week, former state Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor Drew Edmondson said increased tax revenues generated by more than $1 billion in federal funding for the program would cover Oklahoma’s costs.

"So, this is a long-term, permanent fix to solve a very short-term, temporary problem. That's not good government, that's not good economics and that's not good for the health of the citizens of the state of Oklahoma," Edmondson said.

Oklahoma voters approved Medicaid expansion by passing State Question 802 in June.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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