Monday, August 16, 2010

More Great News About Legislative Process Reforms

When I first started to campaign for State Representative in 2004, I did so on a platform of creating a revolution in state government. My idea was that a new generation of legislators would dismantle the legislative process framework which had proven to be so conducive to corruption.

By the time I took office in 2007, it became obvious to me that this revolution had not occurred. The new generation of Republican legislative leaders in the House had taken significant steps towards making the legislative process more open and transparent, but had in no way dismantled the closed system which had been in place for many years.

On a positive note, House committee votes are now being recorded and placed online so you can see how your legislator voted in committee. The text of bills and proposed amendments are posted online for public review. Certain waiting periods have been established before bills can be put to a vote of the House. Gone are the days when legislators submitted amendments on scraps of paper.

One of the biggest reforms occurred in January 2010 when House Speaker Chris Benge made the very courageous decision to broadcast House proceedings online. You may now see and hear all the debate over the issues considered by the House during session by visiting the web site.

The general theme is that the new majority in the House has consistently advanced a series of reforms. Over time these reforms have made considerable progress in opening up the purview of the legislative process to the taxpayer. This naturally takes some of the influence away from special interests who have used the closed process to their advantage for many years.

While I am excited to be a part of these process reforms, I must also say that this is not the revolution I envisioned: one which completely dismantled the closed legislative process and rebuilt it in a manner that made it hard for the corrupt practices of the past to re-emerge. Each year that goes by without a complete overhaul of the system makes it more likely that the new Republican majority will become co-opted by the process and become defenders of the status quo.

This is why it was especially noteworthy when incoming House Speaker Kris Steele announced that he will seek to incorporate some far-ranging reforms which could put an end to the most irresponsible practices which occur in the last days of each legislative session.

Steele has stated his intent to end the House practice of allowing votes on bills without a 24 hour waiting period in the last two days of session. He also wants to consider forcing House conference committees to actually meet in public prior to signing off on legislation. Steele states that he hopes these reforms will continue to be built on in future legislative sessions.

During the last four years I have observed the current system closely. I believe these observations allow me to speak credibly to the fact that Steele’s proposals are significant and will have a far reaching impact.

In fact, it is my belief that this is a major crack in the Berlin Wall of legislative secrecy which will significantly accelerate the pace towards true transparency and openness.

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