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Tobacco trust fund, wineries questions pass

Updated:

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Voters overwhelmingly approved a state question to set aside most of Oklahoma's share of the national tobacco settlement in a trust fund.

Voters also approved four other state questions. But one targeted to helping health departments in Oklahoma City and Tulsa went down to defeat.

State Question 692 on the tobacco trust had the support of Gov. Frank Keating, ranking legislators and other top state officials.

``I think we'll look back in 20 years and say this is one of the smartest things we did as a state,'' state Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Tuesday evening.

A tobacco trust would be overseen by an appointed seven-member board. Annual trust earnings would be appropriated for research into tobacco-related illnesses, cessation and prevention programs and programs for children and the elderly.

Voters also passed State Question 688, which allows Oklahoma wineries to market their products directly to restaurants and liquor stores instead of going through wholesalers.

But State Question 685 was defeated by state voters. It would have applied only to Oklahoma and Tulsa counties and allowed voters there to decide whether to increase levies for their local health departments by as much as 2.5 mills.

Voters approved State Question 684, which would have allowed the state to appropriate a portion of the value of the permanent school fund to schools and universities. Now, annual appropriations are limited to permanent school fund earnings.

State Question 686 was one of the most hotly contested, but it passed despite organized opposition. SQ 686 would allow colleges and universities to make contracts with presidents for up to three years instead of annually.

Bill Cole, president of East Central University in Ada and chairman of the Council of Presidents, said it would enable the state to get a better pool of job applicants to fill college president vacancies.

But a group called Nix 686, led by business law professor Tom Guild of the University of Central Oklahoma, said the longer terms could lead to greater potential liabilities if schools had to buy out contracts of dismissed presidents.

State Question 690 also passed. It would let local school districts vote on making millages for support, building and emergency needs permanent instead of requiring an annual vote.

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