Steele names transparency working group

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 19-Nov-2010

House Speaker-elect Kris Steele on Friday (November 19) announced the creation of a working group to consider procedural reforms that will make the legislative process more transparent.

“While we have made tremendous strides towards increased transparency in recent years, I believe we can build on those successes and give citizens greater access to the legislative process,” said Steele, a Shawnee Republican.

“I believe increased public scrutiny and oversight is vital to a healthy democracy, and technological advances now allow us to be more user-friendly than ever. I am serious about bold reform and am confident the members of the working group will develop proposals that significantly change the way things are done at the Oklahoma Capitol.”

Steele’s announcement was the latest in a series unveiling the direction House Republicans are taking in leadership positions.

Among other things, the newly-formed transparency working group will consider rule changes that open the conference committee process to allow actual meetings and public votes on conference committee reports. In addition, the group will consider reforms that could end the practice of voting on “shell” appropriation bills that contain no actual budget numbers.

The members of the working group are Republican state Reps. Jeff Hickman of Dacoma, Gary Banz of Midwest City, Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City, David Dank of Oklahoma City, and Dan Sullivan of Tulsa.

The committee will also consider putting in place a hard 24-hour rule that requires 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, there is no 24-hour rule during the final two days of session.

As part of that proposal, conference committee reports would also be posted online for member and public review with a link to previous versions of the bill available so changes can be more easily spotted.

Since 2004, House Republicans have instituted number reforms to make government more transparent. For the first time in state history, committee votes were recorded starting in 2005. In 2009, those votes were made immediately available online when the committee report was filed with the Clerk’s office.

In 2007, the House went to an exclusively online model. Amendments and varying versions of bills were all made available online as soon as they were filed to members, the public and the press as well.

In 2010, the House Republican majority added live-streaming of every legislative session, including bookmarking by bill number so the public can view the floor 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 just a few short years,” said Steele. “However, I believe we can still do better. For the public to have confidence in our political system, they must have the ability to both follow and scrutinize legislative activity, and I am committed to opening up the process.”