Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Requiring Legislature to abide by Oklahoma's open government laws is subject of interim study committee hearing Thursday

A Delaware senator will tell Oklahoma lawmakers on Thursday how her General Assembly conducts public business while complying with that state's open government laws.

Democrat Karen E. Peterson was instrumental in ending the Delaware General Assembly's self-imposed exemption from that state's open meeting and records laws in 2009.

An Oklahoma House committee is studying legislation to do the same here.

The House Government Modernization Committee, chaired by state Rep. Jason Murphey, will meet at 9 a.m. in Room 432A of the state Capitol.

Audio of the hearing will be streamed live on the House website and remain posted.

All documents and presentations used during the hearing will be posted. As will the interim study report.

Other speakers are Peter J. Rudy of Oklahoma Watchdog and myself.

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, a 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.

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.

In Delaware, political observers credited removing the General Assembly's overall FOI exemption with making the budget process more transparent and with cutting down on legislative shenanigans in the waning hours of the session.

By contrast in Oklahoma, a state trial judge last week indicated that "unseemly actions and even unethical behavior" are "business as usual" in the state Legislature.

In ruling that prosecutors have sufficient evidence against state Rep. Randy Terrill and former Sen. Debbe Leftwich for a bribery trial, Oklahoma County Special Judge Stephen Alcorn said,
Judges tend to be a bit cynical and tend to be realistic, but the court admits to being disappointed in what has repeatedly been described as business as usual at the Capitol.
Oklahoma legislative leaders should pay heed to a recent study that found strong state open government laws reduce corruption levels and increase the probability that corrupt acts are detected.

Sunshine goes a long way as disinfectant.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & 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.

1 comment:

  1. In Delaware, exemptions to the open meeting act were made for partisan meetings like a party caucus. Murphey has said a similar exemption may be necessary to even the playing field in Oklahoma as well. If this happens then what is really gained by making the legislature compliant with the open records meeting? Is there a scenario other than a partisan meeting or a time when the legislature is in session that more than 50 percent of the legislature would gather in the same place?


Differing interpretations of law and policy are welcome. Personal attacks and character assassinations will be rejected.