Monday, March 14, 2011

Better Access to Legislative Documents

There have been significant advances this year in the amount of transparency afforded to Oklahoma citizens through the Legislature’s web presence.

In the past, keeping track of legislation online was difficult because users of the Oklahoma House of Representatives website were required to navigate to several different web pages, depending on the status of the bills they were attempting to monitor.

You can only imagine how frustrating it was for the visitor to decipher between the introduced, committee substitute, amended, enrolled, conference committee substitute and engrossed versions of the same bill and then visit separate pages to read each of those versions.

Also, it was not pleasant for legislators who might have media reports of and advocacy calls for or against legislation that had already addressed the concern simply because someone was looking at the wrong version of the bill.

Commencing with the most recent session of the Legislature, the web portals for the House and Senate have been updated to provide access to a one-stop overview of each piece of legislation. Not only can visitors review the most recent version of a bill or resolution online, they can also now access the document summarizing the bill, the complete timeline of legislative action on a bill, previous versions and a breakdown of legislative votes on any given bill.

I have found myself using the public web portal just as often, if not more than, the internal legislative site. I think it is a very good sign when it is as convenient for legislators to use the resources provided to the public than to use the internal tools.

The modernization of the legislative process and easy access to web-based documents is also transforming the way legislators conduct business. Most legislators are no longer dependant on reviewing stacks of paper bills. Even the use of computers for this purpose is now in decline. In fact, this is the first year when I can easily work from the floor of the House using just my smart phone without the need to use a computer at all. Several legislators are now using iPads as the primary method to follow legislation during House Floor action.

I would encourage everyone to take a few minutes to visit the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ web site. By clicking on the “legislation” link and the “basic bill search” sublink, you will be able to test the functionality which I have described in this article.

I suggest that you enter HB 2156 (using the following format: HB2156, with no spaces) as a possible bill to review. This is legislation I will present to the House this week. The bill will continue the progression of internal legislative reforms by allowing the House, Senate, Governor and Secretary of State to participate in an electronic-based chain of custody for legislative documentation. It would allow legislation transmitted between these four entities to also occur by electronic mechanism without the need for paper. This should mean that a bill can be written, amended, voted on, sent to the opposite legislative House, voted on again, sent to the Governor and filed with the Secretary of State without ever being placed on paper.

These process efficiencies can be traced back to 2007 when House Speaker Lance Cargill placed an emphasis on modernizing internal House processes with a strong focus on reducing paper dependency. Since that time the House has saved thousands of dollars because of these reforms and I enjoy the opportunity to participate in the expansion of these money-saving efforts.

1 comment:

jan said...

Is there anyone considered a "reliable source" utilized to reveal actual funding/profits -- designed to be advantageous to every available-outside state--sources who are offered incentives and exceptions, more funding/federal issued grants and revenue, not intended for this purpose. Really, donations to non-profits???? A tax shelter---not a social/moral contribution. PLEASE