Monday, May 23, 2011

A Big Difference

Last week appears to have been the last time during which the Legislature will meet in 2011. While the Legislature could technically still return this week, it is unlikely we will do so.

The last few days of this legislative year contrasted heavily from the last days of previous sessions. I think this is probably the first year where I did not feel like I had been run over by a truck during the last two days of session.

During the last two days of session in previous years, countless numbers of legislative initiatives were placed on the House of Representatives’ calendar with little notice. These proposals contained any number of suspicious proposals that did not have time to be vetted by public purview. This was possible because House rules at that time did not require bills to wait on the calendar prior to consideration in the last two days.

Legislators were asked to vote on a large number of provisions they had little time to read. You can only imagine how challenging it was to read large bills that had just been posted to the calendar a few minutes before they were put on the floor for a vote. This had to be completed while listening to debate, considering other bills being debated at the same time, and which also had just been placed on the consideration calendar. It was a gargantuan task.

During those last days of session, I used to spend a great deal of time rapidly scanning through page after page of proposed legislation in an attempt to catch any new proposals contrary to the principles on which I base my vote.

I am delighted to report this year that things were much different. The new House rules dictated that legislation must be processed through a public conference committee process, and required the proposals to be placed on a legislative calendar with several hours of notice to lawmakers and the public.

There were several bills that contained new proposals, and in some cases, amendments were attached to bills in the conference committee process which were significantly different from the previously vetted version of the bill. However, it was not difficult to keep up with the legislation because it was placed on the calendar for consideration and the new House conference committee process allowed for the public vetting of many of these new proposals. This made it far less likely that a legislator would vote for a bill only later to realize that it contained a proposal of significant impact which he/she did not support.

There was no significant need for a last-minute rapid scan of the bills shortly before the vote. In addition, the House only had to work late only two nights of the last week. The practice of deliberating policy proposals late into the night hours is a habit that leads to very bad policy making.

I am convinced that the new rules deterred a lot of possible legislative mischief because legislators would surely have hesitated to introduce controversial proposals into the new process. It is my opinion that these latest rule changes are dramatic in scope and have made a substantive positive difference in the legislative process.

Monday, May 16, 2011

One More Week!

Legislative leaders negotiated a budget agreement with the Governor last week and came to terms with proposals for redistricting the House and Senate. With these issues addressed, legislators have been encouraged to move their bills through the conference committee process with the expectation that the group could adjourn for the year as soon as this week.

The House officially approved the redistricting plan I wrote about in last week’s update. The plan experienced little opposition and was adopted by a vote of 93-3. It now heads to the Senate for approval.

The Senate has also announced their redistricting plan. The Senate plan will reduce the number of Senate districts which crisscross House District 31. Four of these districts currently divide up Logan County. Logan County will now be placed into Senate District 20. The new Senator for Logan County will be Senator David Myers from Ponca City. This district will also cover all of Noble, Pawnee, and part of Kingfisher Counties. Logan County accounts for over 50% of the population of the new district.

The change will also affect the Edmond legislative delegation; a third Senator, Senator Rob Johnson, will join the group as the Senator for the west side of Edmond. The Senate will vote on their plan this week, and that vote will be followed by House consideration of the plan.

There are a number of state government modernization issues that are still working their way through the conference committee process. It will be my responsibility this week to ensure that these issues don’t get lost in the process and will hopefully be approved and sent to the Governor.

The outstanding modernization issues include the proposal to consolidate five state government agencies, establish a business-friendly licensing one-stop shop, consolidate the state’s information technology infrastructure, create a series of taxpayer transparency review processes, consolidate the state’s payroll processing infrastructure systems, and enact the Governor's proposal to the save significant taxpayer dollars through the use of an electronic payments system for the state’s vendors.

There are many millions of taxpayer dollars of savings at stake with these bills. I hope to have good news to report next week.

This will also be the last week that the House District 31 constituent survey is available. If you have not had a chance to take the survey and you live in House District 31, please visit and let me know what you think about some of the issues the Legislature has considered this year.