Speaker-Designate proposes changes to conference process

Legislative Staff Release

Published: 28-Jul-2010

House Speaker-Designate Kris Steele, a Shawnee Republican, announced today (Wednesday, July 28) he intends to make changes to the conference committee process in the Oklahoma House of Representatives that will make the procedure more transparent and open to the public.   

Beginning next legislative session, Steele said he plans to put in place a hard 24-hour rule that will require a House conference committee report to be filed and posted online for a full day before it can be considered on the House floor.

Currently, House rules require House conference committee reports be posted on the calendar at least 24 hours for review. But, that rule is waived in the last two days of session. Keeping the 24-hour rule in place throughout the entire conference process will give members, the public and the press time to read bills and better determine their impact on Oklahomans, said Steele.

“In recent years, House Republicans have made tremendous strides in making our government more open and transparent than ever before. I want to build on those reforms as we seek to do business in a way that best meets our state’s needs as openly as possible, while including technological advances that allow us to be more user-friendly with the public,” said Steele, a Shawnee Republican.

He continued, “It is critical that as a state we continue to advance and not get stuck in antiquated processes simply because they have always been done a certain way. I am serious about bold reform and plan to continue to evaluate the legislative process, including conference committee reports, to determine if other changes are needed.”

Additionally, Steele said that next year conference committee reports posted online for member and public review will also contain a link to the previous versions of the bill so the changes can be more easily spotted.

Steele said he also plans to form a working group over the interim to study the processes used in other states to see if additional changes are needed to make government more open and efficient.

One change Steele intends to vet this fall will look at the option of opening the conference committee process to actual meetings and votes on conference committee reports. Steele said he believes the time is right to examine the option in an effort to make the conference committee process more visible to both members and the public.

These changes will continue openness in government efforts that have been ongoing since Republicans took over the majority in the House six years ago.

Since 2004, House Republicans have made groundbreaking strides to make government more transparent and user-friendly for the citizens of Oklahoma. For the first time in state history, committee votes were recorded starting in 2005, and in 2009 were made immediately available online when the committee report was filed with the Clerk’s office. Prior to this change, the public was not able to know how their legislator voted on any bills in committee without being present to witness the vote in-person at the Capitol.

In 2007, the House went to an exclusively online model, where members were given lap top computers and amendments and varying versions of bills were all available online as soon as they were filed for not only the members, but the public and the press as well.

The House also launched a video program in 2009 that allows all members to speak directly to Oklahomans through the House website about important legislation under consideration.

The House Republicans built on those reforms in 2010 by adding live-streaming of every legislative session, including bookmarking by bill number so the public can view the process right from their own computer anywhere in the world. Additionally, this past legislative session in-room video became available in some committee rooms, allowing visitors to better see the process and votes in committee.

“We have come so far in a few short years in making Oklahoma one of the most open and accessible governments in the country,” said Steele. “These changes, and others that may come later, will make our state government more transparent while also bringing the legislative process into homes across Oklahoma so people can become more involved.”