More legislative transparency sought by advocates
BY World's Editorials Writers
Friday, November 16, 2012
11/16/12 at 3:44 AM
If public entities such as city councils and state agencies must operate out in the open under the glare of the public spotlight, then why shouldn't the state Legislature have to operate that way as well?
That's a good question, and one that's being debated anew at the state Capitol. It looks like it's a question the Legislature itself will be taking up again next session.
While there are a few reasons for lawmakers to want and need a certain degree of flexibility to deal with the issues they face, there are ways to address that need and still operate more openly.
This issue is not going to go away, so lawmakers might as well recognize that and act accordingly.
The Senate Rules Committee is hearing testimony on the subject in advance of the upcoming session. Among speakers was Joey Senat, a journalism professor at Oklahoma State University, who told the panel that Oklahoma is one of only three states in which the Legislature has a specific exemption to the Open Records Act that applies to other government entities, and one of eight states that have an exemption from the Open Meeting Act.
"These are basic principles that are applied to other areas of government," he noted.
Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, who introduced a bill last year to modify the Legislature's exemption, set up the meeting and plans to introduce a similar measure again next year. Last session's bill didn't even get a hearing, largely because of resistance from lawmakers concerned that more openness might restrict their abilities to amend legislation or communicate with constituents.
Those are legitimate concerns, but they can be addressed. Another measure introduced last year by Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, would have made virtually all legislative records public except for communications with constituents and personnel and other already exempt records. Those seem like reasonable compromises.
Gone are the days when a complacent citizenry allowed all its business to be conducted behind closed doors. It's time for the Oklahoma Legislature to open up.
Original Print Headline: Open up