Monday, August 23, 2010

Open Books 2.0

During the most recent legislative session I was privileged to work on two major initiatives designed to open up Oklahoma government to the purview of taxpayers as has never before been possible.

One of these initiatives was Senate Bill SB 1759 which is commonly known as the Government 2.0 proposal. I authored this legislation with State Senator Anthony Sykes. This bill contained a series of transparency initiatives, including the codification of what I believe is the first comprehensive state-level Government 2.0 plan in the nation. In the future I intend to write articles about this bill that will describe the implications of the changes and ways this will allow you to hold state government responsible.

The other initiative was House Bill 3422 which was authored by Representative Ken Miller and Senator Clark Jolley. The plan is known as the Open Books 2.0 proposal and was requested by Miller and the Oklahomans for Responsible Government (OFRG) group. OFRG routinely utilizes web based reporting to conduct studies which help document how accountable various government entities are. The individuals at OFGR are becoming experienced in using web based transparency platforms and noticed that Oklahoma's open books policies (the policy by which state government must place expenses online) was falling behind that of other states.

Current Oklahoma law does not require all state expenditures to be placed online and the expenditures are not easily searchable. This makes it difficult for those who want to find out where state government is spending money.

I was honored to work with OFRG, Miller and Senate author Clark Jolley and help develop the transparency criteria which were eventually placed into the new law. HB 3422 will require not only that all state government purchases be placed online, but will also ensure that those expenditures are searachable by name.

No longer will taxpayers be forced to scroll through page after page of expenditures in order to find the name of an individual or company who is receiving a government check. Now, taxpayers will be able to search by name and can quickly find out how much that entity is receiving.

The spend data will also be available for export in standardized formats so that the data can be downloaded and analyzed. This will enable third party organizations representing taxpayers to perform complex analysis of government spending. In addition, the data will be archived and kept on file so that not only will documentation of the expenditures remain open to the public, but long term spending trends can be analyzed as well.

I very much enjoyed being able to help with this legislation and believe the implications of these reforms will be extremely far reaching in deterring inappropriate government spending. In a future update I will write about some of the exciting tax-credit transparency language which will also go into law as a result of House Bill 3422.

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