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Critics Want an Open Government
It's your money and you should know how it's spent. That's the message lawmakers heard from advocates for a more open government. Oklahoma is one of just three states where lawmakers are specifically exempted from following open records and open meeting laws.
Senator David Holt, (R) of Oklahoma City, requested the interim study looking at ways to increase transparency in the legislative process. Senator Holt says most of the lawmakers currently serving had nothing to do with writing the exemptions and should now work to change the policy. "We ought to make it easy because it's your money and you ought to be able to open these doors and see how it's being spent," Holt said.
Senators heard from Oklahoma State professor Dr. Joey Senat, an outspoken advocate for open government. Dr. Senat writes a blog for Freedom of Information Oklahoma and says a recent poll by Sooner Poll shows that 85% of Oklahomans support removing the lawmaker exemption to the open meetings and open records laws. "It can be time consuming, it can be cumbersome at times particularly for meeting," Senat told Fox 25, "But the principle of transparency of allowing the public to see and hear first-hand the discussions that go on and shape policy that's more important than the inconvenience to some elected officials."
Capitol leaders also heard from Peter J. Rudy, the publisher of the website OKCapitolSource.com. Rudy is known for his coverage of the legislative session as well as providing live social media updates of many House and Senate hearings.
Rudy says one big step towards transparency would not necessarily require a change in the law, just the rules. "I would like to see the state senate follow the house's lead and have standing conference committees with open meetings and recorded votes," Rudy said.
Rudy says in the past both chambers operated the same way. If a bill was changed in either the House or Senate, instead of having a meeting, the substituted bill was passed around to lawmakers on the conference committee. Sometimes lawmakers would not read the changes and would just sign off on the new bill.
This is an issue that is at the center of a criminal bribery case involving two former legislatures. The bill would have created a new high-paying job at the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's office. However, no one knows or will admit to who added the language creating the position. At the time many lawmakers told Fox 25 they never read the changes or signed based on the request of other legislative leaders.
"It's only their job to make sure they know the bills they are passing and unfortunately not every lawmaker reads every word of every bill," Rudy said.
Senator Holt says while a complete overhaul of the open records and open meeting laws as they apply to the legislature may still not happen this year, it's important to keep talking about the issues to educate lawmakers and the public. "You ought to know why laws are being passed you ought to be able to get those answers and we ought to make it as easy as possible."
Posted: Tuesday, November 13 2012, 10:11 PM CST
IN OKLAHOMA NEWS
Search continues in creek for missing Okla. teen
May 25, 2013 22:59 GMT
KINGFISHER, Okla. (AP) -- Authorities continue to search for a Kingfisher teenager who disappeared after jumping into Uncle John Creek.
Police say 17-year-old Taylor Faine jumped into the creek Thursday and did not resurface. Kingfisher Fire Chief Randy Poindexter told The Oklahoman (http://bit.ly/10s2oB6 ) on Saturday that manmade dams have been built in hopes of finding Faine's body.
Authorities say Faine was swimming with friends in an area where no swimming signs are in place because of dangerous currents in the creek.
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