Monday, April 11, 2011

The State Government Transparency Proposals

In last week’s update I wrote about a series of what I believe to be innovative transparency and accessibility enhancing reforms which are part of House Bill 1086 that I authored with state Senator Clark Jolley.

In addition to the reforms that I wrote about in last week’s update, the bill also proposes to make state governance processes open to the public.

For instance, all too often, governments embark on expensive information technology projects only to meet with delayed deadlines and implementation, cost overruns, and deliverables which do not meet the envisioned result. House Bill 1086 creates the web presence through which the public can monitor the progress of these projects. This will allow the public and policy makers to note when projects start to fall behind schedule or cost more than initially projected.

One of the challenges facing state purchasing offices is communicating with potential vendors who are interested on bidding for government business. All too often, unfortunately, a prospective vendor is uncertain about the details in the state’s request for proposal, and purchasing officials understandably do not wish to privately communicate with one particular vendor for fear of being seen prejudicing the bidding process. If the bidder’s concerns are not addressed in a pre-bid conference, he/she may price the uncertainty into the cost of the bid, thus costing state taxpayers more money. House Bill 1086 establishes a public Wiki platform through which this communication could occur in a public discourse at any time, and therefore mitigate this liability.

The bill also allows state agency-level purchasing officers to use a public Wiki platform to report items which are on a mandated state purchasing schedule and which can be found for less money off the shelf at area businesses. This will have the effect of helping centralized purchasing personnel manage state spend contracts to ensure the state’s purchasing power is properly leveraged. It will also bring transparency to the failure of centralized purchasing officers to address these situations when they arise.

While not part of the reforms in House Bill 1086, House Bill 1601 and Senate Bill 772 (authored by Representative Aaron Stiles and Senator Clark Jolley) also use technology to assist the taxpayers with accessing state government by establishing the state’s business licensing one-stop location. This is a result of a request from Governor Mary Fallin and the policy in these bills is designed to enable business owners get their licenses and permits in one convenient location. Previous state government modernization reforms placed state license and permitting processes online. These bills are now seeking to enable users to access real-time processing and a one-stop location for all of their licensing and permitting needs. This will enable business owners to spend less time dealing with the government and more time growing their businesses and creating jobs.

House Bill 1086 and Senate Bill 772 were approved by a Senate committee last week and now go before the full Senate for consideration. We will consider Senate Bill 772 in the Government Modernization Committee later this week.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

HB 1086 - The 2011 Government 2.0 Proposal

During last year’s legislative session, I served as the House author for Senate Bill 1759 which was sponsored in the Senate by state Senator Anthony Sykes. Our goal was to codify what may be the first in the nation’s Government 2.0 legislation to be approved at the state level.

The bill established the web portal. This site is the framework through which all kinds of government data will be pushed out to the public so they can hold government accountable. This includes government expenditures, the state payroll, tax credit transparency, and data which is commonly requested through open records requests. You can currently view these data feeds and much more at this website.

This year, I am sponsoring House Bill 1086 with state Senator Clark Jolley. This bill is designed to build on the Government 2.0 framework and make state government processes easier to review and access.

The bill will establish a web presence at the web address where citizens will be able to review and search government documents. Every year, state agencies, committees and task forces are required to publish publications containing various reports and performance data. They also generate reports showing how taxpayer savings could be realized through the implementation of reforms. These publications are initially circulated among state officials before invariably being sent to the state archives where they sit on library shelves until they are relevant for little more than historical reference. If the elected officials do not respond to these reports, they are at risk of being completely overlooked by the public and the media under this less-than transparent system.

House Bill 1086 mandates that these reports be placed online in a searchable format. This will allow members of the public to search through these reports by keyword. This was an idea initially requested by the group Oklahomans for Responsible Government (OFRG) during the last legislative interim.

Another convenience offered by HB 1086 is a web portal through which citizens can access government forms. There are likely hundreds of forms produced by government agencies, and you have probably experienced the frustration of needing to submit a form, only to embark on the major chore of looking through a labyrinth of agency web pages seeking a specific form. would serve as a one-stop location where the public can search for a form by form number or keyword and find the document they need. This is especially important for business owners who need to focus on their business instead of trying to figure out how to navigate through complicated bureaucratic processes.

The bill also establishes a portal through which citizens can view geo-data on an overlay of the map of their choice. This resource is currently online and you can view it at The current site includes an incredible amount of useful information in one location. For example, political boundaries such as state, county, school and fire districts are denoted so that citizens can quickly learn in which political jurisdiction a property is located. The bill will make the portal the official one-stop shop for state geo-data and enable the state’s geographic information office to push state agency geo-data to the public through this site which will be made available at the web address.

The bill also allows the development of state employee performance metrics for publication on the site -- the publication of public school expenditures, state revolving fund balances, and detailed state expenditure data are all included.

A number of other transparency components are included in this legislation which I plan to write about in future updates.

The bill has been approved by the House of Representatives, a Senate committee and awaits additional consideration in the Senate.