In previous weeks I have made the case that state government's massive budget shortfall presents an exciting opportunity to spend less money. To accomplish this, the government will be forced to make long needed changes. Instead of the downturn being a detriment to the people, I believe many of these changes will actually improve the quality of service provided to the people. The downturn is in fact a blessing, as it forces the government to do what it should have done a long time ago.
Some of these proposed changes are reflected in a bill I am authoring. House Bill 1032 has already been approved by the House Modernization Committee and is awaiting action on the House floor.
The primary focus of the bill is to make all license and permit operations accessible online. The Oklahoma web portal would be able to offer the same services as theTexasOnline.com web site. From that web site, you can participate in such tasks as renewing your occupational license or license plate.
The obvious benefit to this reform is cutting through cumbersome state bureaucracy and allowing direct access to these services without having to use government resources. This should put an end to the old practice of waiting in long lines to get a license or permit.
This benefit recently became very obvious in the California when part of the state government was forced on a furlough because of a massive money shortfall. Normally this would be a huge problem because people were unable to go to the tag office to renew their licenses. But since they could renew online, online registrations increased by about 20% during that time.
The Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure is already saving $20,964 per year because of an online professional license renewal system. Staff time was cut by fifty percent. It also appears that 99% of license renewals now occur online.
Another important reform contained in HB 1032 is transparency. The bill requires more state spending be made available for public review through the state's online portal. As the state institutes more reforms geared towards public accountability, there will be more and more opportunities for greater transparency. It is this transparency that will discourage abusive spending practices.
HB 1032 would also convert state payroll to a bi-weekly system. State government appears to be one of the few organizations that still issue monthly payroll. This leads to any number of problems: from hindering the recruitment of employees to what appears to be the unnecessary need for a supplemental payroll system. The conversion to the bi-weekly system could save the state millions, as man hours are freed up from recalculating and issuing supplemental payroll.
HB 1032 joins HB 1410, HB 1704 and SB 980 as part of the effort to modernize government this legislative session.