Last year, I filed Legislation that would apply Oklahoma’s open meetings and records laws to the Legislature. As you are probably aware, these are the important laws designed to ensure that transparency follows the taxpayer dollar. Whenever the government spends your money, these laws are supposed to provide you with access to the documents and meetings affecting the decision to spend your money. Over the years, these transparency laws have evolved to become an important part of the ethics that govern the actions of government.
However, when the Oklahoma Legislature passed Oklahoma’s open records and meeting laws, they also exempted the Legislature from those laws. In other words, the laws that apply to Oklahoma governments don’t apply to the most important part of Oklahoma government.
I know it is only a matter of time before this law is applied to the Legislature as well. The hypocrisy of the unequal application is too apparent to be defended by even the most determined advocates of the status quo.
This summer, House Speaker Kris Steele approved an interim study of this proposal, and assigned the study to the Government Modernization Committee. The committee heard testimony of the law’s successful application in other states. I appreciated the fact that the Speaker allowed this study to take place. Speaker Steele has made it clear that he desires to continue opening up the legislative process and values the discussion about the law’s potential passage. I believe the time is right to continue advancing the measure, and I look forward to spending time developing and advocating the proposal during the upcoming session.
In the upcoming weeks I plan to write more about this bill and also intend to describe the next generation of government modernization legalization as it is introduced.
One of the most important modernization initiatives will not occur through the implementation of a single bill, but will take place during the appropriations and budget process.
You may recall my description of the millions of dollars set to be saved because of the state’s Information Technology consolidation effort. This is the year when those savings should be realized through the appropriations process. It will be vital for our appropriations officials to understand the many nuances of the consolidation so that agencies truly realize the savings.
The recent appointment of Edmond Senator Clark Jolley to Chair the Senate A&B Committee greatly enhances the chances of the successful realization of the savings. Jolly has been the Senator author of nearly every piece of government modernization, including the multi-million dollar savings from the consolidation of inefficient IT processes. Because of Jolley's knowledge of best practices and due to his role as A&B Chairman, he is in the perfect position to realize the savings on behalf of taxpayers.
I don’t doubt that some agencies will try to get an exemption from the reform by opposing the realization of the savings. Holding the line and realizing the savings will be an important component of the effort to shrink the size of government.