All six state questions sailed to approval in Tuesday's election.
A proposal to abolish the governing commission of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services was among the most closely watched state questions.
With 1,829 of 1,960 precincts reporting, 59.9 percent of voters were supporting State Question 765, which will abolish the DHS commission, while 40.1 percent voted against it.
The state question was part of a legislative effort to reform an agency repeatedly stung by criticism for its failure to prevent the deaths of abused and neglected children after they had come into state custody.
The commission will be replaced by a system where the governor will appoint the agency's director and four citizen advisory panels will be created to oversee DHS operations and administration.
Oklahomans also approved:
State Question 762, which will remove the governor from the parole process for people convicted of certain nonviolent offenses. The vote was 59.2 percent in favor and 40.8 percent against.
State Question 766, which will exempt all intangible personal property from ad valorem property taxation. The vote was 65 percent for and 35 percent against the proposal.
State Question 759, which will prohibit affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment based on race, color, gender, ethnicity and national origin, with limited exceptions. The vote was 59.3 percent for and 40.7 percent against the proposal.
State Question 758, which will limit property tax increases by placing a 3 percent annual cap on the amount county assessors can raise appraisals on agricultural land and owner-occupied homes with homestead exemptions. The vote was 67.8 percent for and 32.2 percent against the proposal.
State Question 764, which will authorize the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to issue bonds to finance a reserve fund for water resource and sewage treatment funding programs. The vote was 56.7 percent for and 43.3 percent against the proposal.
Ed Lake, who attended his first meeting as DHS director less than a week ago, issued a statement late Tuesday assuring Oklahomans the change in DHS's governing structure won't interfere with its ability to provide benefits to clients.
“Although our governance structure has changed, our mission remains the same and we will continue to serve as a safety net for those who need our help,” Lake said.
“Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to get to know the members of the Human Services Commission and have found them to be energetic, motivated and passionate about helping the people our agency serves,” Lake said.
“I would have enjoyed continuing to work with this committed group of professionals, but the voters have spoken. In most states and as it was in Tennessee where I came from, the heads of state agencies report to the governor. I am excited about the future of OKDHS and look forward to working with Governor Fallin and the Legislature in continuing the good work and improvements this commission has begun.”
Fred Morgan, president of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, which backed proposals to eliminate the intangibles tax and allow the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to issue bonds, said passage of both state questions should help businesses and individuals in the state.
“We're very pleased,” he said. “Both of these are very important to the business community, but also to the people in general.”
Morgan said eliminating intangible taxes was a matter of “tax fairness” and said allowing the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to issue bonds will help cities keep water utility rates low as they make needed infrastructure improvements.
State Rep. David Dank, House author of the state question to reduce the cap on annual property tax increases from 5 to 3 percent, said he was pleased with the decision of voters.
“I am grateful to the voters of Oklahoma for their strong approval of this measure at the polls,” said Dank, R-Oklahoma City. “They understood clearly that this was sensible tax restraint, not a tax cut that would harm schools, counties or libraries. A recent report by the Tax Foundation listed Oklahoma as the eighth-fastest-growing state for property taxes, and the passage of 758 will slow that growth while maintaining adequate revenues.“
Dank said the vote is especially important to seniors and others on fixed or limited incomes.
Sen. Rob Johnson, senate author of the affirmative action state question, said Oklahoma is now the seventh state to refuse to allow race or gender to be the basis of hiring decisions and he thinks it sets an example for other states.
“I think it promotes growth in our state and puts everyone on an equal playing field,” he said.