Friday, July 8, 2011

Requiring Legislature to abide by Open Meeting, Records laws is subject of interim study by House committee

Ending the Oklahoma Legislature's self-imposed exemption from the state's open government laws is the subject of an interim study approved today by House Speaker Kris Steele.

The study will be conducted by the House Government Modernization committee, which is chaired by state Rep. Jason Murphey.

The Guthrie Republican requested the study after his bill requiring the Legislature to abide by the Open Meeting and Open Records laws died in a House committee during the last legislative session.

The interim study, titled "Enhancing Transparency of the Legislative Process," will "focus on the positive effects of recent legislative rule changes and analyze the possible application of open records and meetings laws to legislative proceedings."

Murphey can hold hearings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning Aug. 2. Meeting notices will be posted on the House website.

Steele approved 80 of the 120 interim studies requested.

For the first time, a report will be compiled on each interim study and posted on the House website. All documents and presentations used during interim study committee hearings will be posted, too. Audio of the hearings will be streamed live on the House website and remain posted.

"These changes are part of the House's ongoing commitment to transparency and increasing the public's access to the work done by their government," Steele said in a news release. "This small change should produce big results in disseminating useful research, fostering fact-based decisions and retaining institutional knowledge."

Last legislative session, Murphey proposed adding the Legislature to the definition of public body under the Open Records and Open Meeting acts while removing its exemption from the statutes.

But HB 1085 wasn't taken up by the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Fred Jordan, R-Jenks.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media and Strategic Communications

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.

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