If passed, State Question 793 would amend Section 3, Article 20 of the Oklahoma Constitution to allow optometrists and opticians to administer eye examinations and write prescriptions for glasses inside retail establishments. Passage of SQ 793 would invalidate current restrictions against optometrists locating in retail facilities, and it would prohibit new statutes to that effect. But it would allow the Legislature to impose other restrictions, such as health and safety standards or the prohibition of surgical procedures in retail establishments.

Current statutes stipulate that eye doctors who also sell glasses must have a “second door” at their business to physically delineate between the medical and retail functions of prescribing and selling eye wear, respectively. Some optometrists say the spirit of the law intends to shield medical practitioners from undue corporate influence with regard to pushing products onto patients.

The ballot question and its proposed constitutional amendment can be read in detail here:

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SQ 793 proponents: Increasing optometrists’ freedom makes business sense

As mentioned in the video above and elsewhere, SQ 793 supporters cite the potential economic benefits as compelling reasons voters should approve the measure. Those potential benefits include:

  • increased competition, which in turn would theoretically drive down pricing,
  • increased convenience for consumers who would be able to complete more purchases in one location,
  • and increased opportunities for more businesses to engage in retail optometry.

Kiley Raper, CEO of the Oklahoma Retail Merchants Association, and Gwendolyn Caldwell, a registered lobbyist and president of Caldwell and Associates, are the two proponents listed on the initiative petition filed in March 2017. As the Tulsa World noted in late September, Walmart largely financed the initiative petition to get SQ 793 on November’s ballot.

SQ 793 opponents: Don’t let Walmart dictate our industry

Opponents of SQ 793 frame the issue largely in terms of corporate influence potentially corrupting the autonomy of optometrists. Opening up prescriptions and related eyeglasses sales inside a retail behemoth like Walmart, opponents claim, will cause private optometry practices to close, in turn limiting patient access and choice. Further, opponents say, the clinical setting available in current practices creates better physician-patient relationships and allows for surgeries and more advanced procedures to take place, something they claim would be impossible inside a Walmart.

Joel Robison, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians, has been quoted as decrying SQ 793, and has published two commentaries (earlier this month and back in July) from optometrists who oppose the measure. The AFL-CIO of Oklahoma also opposes SQ 793, citing Walmart’s treatment of labor and corporate values.

Make a plan, remember to vote

Regardless of your personal position on SQ 793, make sure to attend your local polling place on election day and exercise your constitutional right to have your voice heard. For those facing transportation issues, ride-sharing service will offer free rides to polling locations on election day.

Oklahomans have until Oct. 12 to register to vote in the state’s Nov. 6 general election, upon which SQ 793 and several other state questions will appear.

Josh McBee served as NonDoc's managing editor from September 2015 through January 2019. He earned a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. He has reported and edited for newspapers and other media in Oklahoma, Colorado and California.