Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Georgia & Steve's Take on the SQs & Judges- 2020 Edition!


by Georgia Williams & Steve Fair


Since 1994, Georgia Williams of Lawton and Steve Fair of Duncan have provided voters with their views on the State Questions that appear on the ballot.  They are former hosts of The Grapevine, a popular weekly political talk show heard from 2005-2010 throughout SW Oklahoma. Williams and Fairs’ views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Republican Party.  They can be reached by email at

STATE QUESTION NO. 805, Initiative Petition # 421

This measure seeks to add a new Article II-A to the Oklahoma Constitution. This new Article excepts and does not apply to persons who have ever been convicted of a violent felony. It would prohibit the use of a former felony conviction to increase the statutorily allowable base range of punishment for a person subsequently convicted of a felony. Individuals who are currently incarcerated for felony sentences that were enhanced based on one or more former felony convictions, and whose sentences are greater than the maximum sentence that may currently be imposed for such felonies, may seek sentence modification in court. The new Article sets forth a detailed process for such sentence modification, including but not limited to requirements for a hearing, appointment of counsel for indigent petitioners, and notification of victims, and requires that the court impose a modified sentence no greater than the current maximum sentence which may be imposed on a person convicted of the same felony with no former felony convictions, and which results in no greater time served in prison than under the original sentence. It establishes an appeal procedure, provides an effective date, and contains a severability clause.



GEORGIA’S VIEW: NO- My concern about SQ 805 is that it is a Constitutional Amendment.  Reforms passed by voters in 2016 were changes to statutes and can be revised by the Legislature.  Amendments can only be changed by a vote of the people.  That is done either by Legislature putting a question  on  ballot  - rarely - or the initiative petition process – timely and expensive.  This question focuses on non-violent crimes and sentencing for such crimes. If passed, this would prohibit the use of prior felony convictions in non-violent cases and let those currently serving time for non-violent crimes who were sentenced with enhancement (looking at priors) to be able to petition the court to have their sentence reduced.  Looks like a home-run for the repeat non-violent criminal. This is being proposed as a way to reduce prison population and save money.  At what cost to public safety? DA’s and Judges currently have a lot of lee-way in sentencing.  It’s been stated that a better solution would be ‘a thoughtful and well-researched sentencing code’ from our Legislature. But, lawmakers have not shown much willingness to take on such reforms. This state question in the form of an amendment needs to go back to the drawing board and our Legislature needs to do their job! Meanwhile, there’s an old saying….if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

STEVE’S VIEW: NO- Oklahoma’s crime rate has increased since voters approved two state questions in 2018 that reduced drug possession and some former property crimes to misdemeanors.  Much of the this so-called criminal justice reform is being driven by the desire to reduce the number of people in jail in the state.  Removing the ability of a prosecutor from using a criminal’s past felonies against them will put more criminals back on the street.     


STATE QUESTION NO. 814, Legislative Referendum # 375

This measure seeks to amend Article 10, Section 40 of the Oklahoma Constitution (Section 40), which directs proceeds from the State's settlements with or judgments against tobacco companies. Currently, Section 40 directs 75% of proceeds to the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund (TSET Fund), where earnings may only be used for tobacco prevention programs, cancer research, and other such programs to maintain or improve the health of Oklahomans. Meanwhile, the remaining 25% of proceeds are directed to a separate fund for the Legislature (Legislative Fund). The Legislature can also direct some of that 25% to the Attorney General.

This measure amends Section 40 to reduce the percentage of proceeds that go into the TSET Fund from 75% to 25%. As a result, the remaining 75% will go to the Legislative Fund and the Legislature may continue to direct a portion to the Attorney General. The measure would also restrict the use of the Legislative Fund. Section 40 currently states only that the Legislative Fund is subject to legislative appropriation. If this measure passes, money from the Legislative Fund must be used to get federal matching funds for Oklahoma's Medicaid Program.


 GEORGIA’S VIEW: YES- Oklahoma receives large amounts of money each year from a lawsuit against the tobacco companies.  Called the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund (TSET Fund). 75% may only be used for tobacco illness, cancer research, other programs to improve the health of Oklahomans. Another 25% goes to the Legislative Fund. If this question is passed, the percentage that goes to the Legislative Fund will increase and must be used to get federal matching funds for Oklahoma’s Medicaid Program. Most states who have approved expansion of Medicaid as Oklahoma has done, have run into money problems. It seems the use of these                  funds is still helping Oklahomans with their health issues and is a good way to possibly prevent cuts in                  programs or a tax increase to pay the cost of Medicaid Expansion.  I will vote YES.

                 STEVE’S VIEW: YES- In 1998, Oklahomans approved a SQ that directed that 75% of the money tobacco                             companies pay the state under the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) go toward stopping smoking and                     25% of the money go into a fund the legislature could appropriate.  If approved, this would be switched and the                     legislature would get the 75% and TSET 25%.  I have mixed feelings about this.  Giving the legislature more                         money to spend never seems like a good idea, but I am tired of seeing TSET run non-stop commercials that have                 more to do with general overall health and not about stopping tobacco usage . The legislature would have to use                     the money to pay for Medicaid, which is health related.  I will vote YES on SQ #814.


Judges and Justices in Oklahoma are appointed by the Governor and then confirmed by the State Senate.  The Governor is given three possible nominees by the Judicial Nominating Commission, a group of fifteen (15).  Six are appointed by the Governor and six by the Oklahoma Bar Association.  The other three members are chosen At Large by the Commission itself.  Each Justice periodically appears on the ballot to be RETAINED or REMOVED.  Since Oklahoma went to a RETENTION ballot for the judiciary, NO JUDGE HAS BEEN REMOVED!   There are eight judges/justices on the November ballot.  It is difficult to find information on them, but we have done our best to find what we could.  We have based our recommendations on two primary considerations; (1) Who appointed them.  If they were appointed by a liberal, then it very likely they are liberal and (2) Their length of service.  There are two on the 2020 ballot who have served more than 30 years on the court.  It is past time for Oklahoma to have judicial reform.  There should be term limits for all the judges/justices on the three courts of last resort.  We encourage you to contact your legislators and ask them to initiate judicial reform in Oklahoma which includes not only term limits, but the dismantling of a self-serving appointee system that is controlled by the Bar Association. Steve Fair & Georgia Williams


Justice M. John Kane IV- YES

Date appointed to Court: January 2019

Appointed by: Governor Kevin Stitt

Age: 58

Third generation lawyer from Pawhuska

Served as District Judge for 14 years

Justice Tom Colbert- NO

Date appointed to Court:  2004

Appointed by: Governor Brad Henry

Age: 71

Former public school teacher in Chicago

First African-American to serve on Supreme Court

Has served on Courts of Criminal Appeals & Civil Appeals

Justice Richard Darby- YES

District: 9th (SW Oklahoma)

Date appointed to Court:  2018

Appointed by: Governor Mary Fallin

Age: 62

District Judge for 24 years in Altus

Wife is Superintendent of Christian School


 Justice Rob Hudson- YES

Date appointed to Court:  2015

Appointed by: Governor Mary Fallin

Age: 62

Former DA in Payne County

Former Special District Judge

Established Oklahoma’s 1st drug court

Baptist Deacon

Justice Gary Lumpkin- NO

Date appointed to Court:  1989

Appointed by: Governor Henry Bellmon

Age: 74

Former District Judge

Presiding Judge for CCA( 4th time)

Been on CCA for 31 years

From Madill, OK

Former Marine Reserves



Judge Jane Wiseman- NO

Date appointed to Court:  2005

Appointed by: Governor Brad Henry

Age: 74

Former District Judge

Was nearly removed in 2014

Officiated at first same sex marriage in Oklahoma

Judge Deborah Barnes- NO

Date appointed to Court:  2008

Appointed by: Governor Brad Henry

Age: 62

Breast cancer survivor

Has been retained twice

Graduated 1st in her law school class

Judge Keith Rapp- NO

Date appointed to Court:  1984

Appointed by: Governor George Nigh

Age: 86

Navy veteran

Former District Judge

Former NASA Engineer