In recent days there has been a good deal of debate surrounding the fact that the federal Congress is not allowing C-Span cameras to televise the meetings of the health care legislation conference committee. This debate has illustrated the importance of allowing the citizens to observe legislative proceedings.
In the summer of 2008, I wrote a series of articles in which I defined a check list of items which the taxpayer could use to see if their elected official was truly representing the citizens or was representing the bureaucracy, special interests and the status-quo. One of the most important of these items is that of transparency. In my view, transparency issues provide the citizens with a defining issue by which they should hold an office holder accountable.
If the office holder is opposed to openness and transparency then it is my belief that he is acting contrary to the principles of good government and should be replaced as soon as possible. Oftentimes those opposed to these reforms will cloak their arguments behind any number of superfluous arguments but the end result is the same; they don't want the citizens to know what goes on in government.
As a Guthrie City Councilman, I observed the impact that televising city council meetings had on the local governing process. I advocated for the creation of the telecast. I possessed the belief that if just one City Councilman would be wiling to ask questions and represent the citizens through the openness provided by the telecast, the citizens would be able to see for themselves what the issues were and observe the various motivations of the elected officials for themselves. To this day, I enjoy pointing to the City of Guthrie telecast and Internet feed as a demonstration of how the citizens can monitor the activities of local government.
I have strongly advocated that this same type of service be made available for those who wish to monitor the Legislature. I feel the Legislature should set the example in demonstrating the importance of public access to legislative proceedings. Legislative proceedings should have been televised many years ago and I believe the delay in providing this accessibility to the citizens has been inexcusable considering that many city governments, county governments and school boards have been broadcasting their meetings for years.
This is why I am especially appreciative of the fact that Speaker of the House, Chris Benge, has directed that a webcast of House of Representative proceedings will now be made available through the okhouse.gov Internet site. The webcast should be available starting with Governor Henry's State of the State address next month. I encourage you to take some time to watch this webcast during the upcoming legislative session. As you observe the legislative proceedings, please do not hesitate to contact me with your input, suggestions and questions about the issues being considered by the Legislature.