The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

State, national, world

November 6, 2012

Oklahoma voters OK affirmative action, parole changes

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma voters approved all six ballot measures on Tuesday, including a proposal to wipe out affirmative action programs in state government that the plan's supporters say are no longer needed.

Voters approved the Republican-backed measure that prohibits preferential treatment in contracts or education programs based on race, gender, ethnicity or national origin. The law change wouldn't apply to programs in place because of court orders or ones needed to keep or obtain federal funding.

Also approved by voters were proposals to remove the governor from the parole process, limit annual property valuation increases from 5 percent to 3 percent, exempt intangible personal property from property tax and change the way the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is governed. Voters also approved a question that allows the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to issue bonds.

The Republican-led Legislature put the affirmative action measure on the ballot and rejected criticism the proposal was intended to drive more conservative voters to the polls.

"The only way we're going to get past racism and get people not to see the color difference is to get our government to lead by example," state Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Kingfisher, who sponsored the proposal in the Legislature, said last month.

State officials believe the change would have a minimal impact, mainly on some scholarships that target women or minorities.

The proposal that calls for removing the governor from the pardon and parole process would apply to nonviolent offenders. Supporters say it would make the probation and parole system more efficient. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin initially supported the plan but reversed her position after concerns from district attorneys who wanted the additional level of oversight.

The plan to restructure the state's troubled Human Services Department also was put before voters after the agency struggled with a string of child neglect cases and a class-action lawsuit in recent years.

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Associated Press writer Sean Murphy contributed to this report from Oklahoma City.

 

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