Transparency and domestic violence response laws take effect

OKLAHOMA CITY — As of November 1, two new laws went into effect that Sen. David Holt believes will promote greater government transparency for Oklahoma citizens. Holt, R-Oklahoma City, was Senate author of those measures as well another new law intended to combat Oklahoma’s domestic violence crisis.

For his efforts to increase transparency, Holt was honored this year with the “Sunshine Award” by Freedom of Information Oklahoma, an organization dedicated to promoting openness in government.  During the 2014 session, he pressed passage of Senate Bill 1497 which will enable citizens to enforce the state’s Open Meetings Act.  He also pushed House Bill 2676 ensuring dash-cam videos recorded by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol will be subject to the state’s Open Records Act. H.B. 2676 also includes a section on copying records that has taken on new importance in recent weeks after the Norman Police Department declined to allow copying of the Joe Mixon tape until H.B. 2676 took effect.

“Government meetings should be open to the public and government records should be accessible to the public and available for inspection and copying,” Holt said.   “These simple concepts are enshrined in our state’s transparency laws, but efforts to thwart them are never-ending. November 1 was a red letter day in the quest to preserve and expand the taxpayers’ fundamental right to know what is being done in their name and with their money.” 

A third new law House Bill 2526, co-authored with Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, also took effect November 1. It creates an important new procedure for law enforcement responding to domestic violence situations. H.B. 2526 requires law enforcement to ask a series of questions of victims to assess their physical danger. The questions will help the victim understand the reality of the situation and will assist the law enforcement officer as they determine the most appropriate services toward which the victim should be directed.

“Oklahoma has the third-highest rate in the nation for women being murdered by men,” Holt said. “Whatever we are doing is not enough. This issue has been highlighted in recent months because of national events, and I hope there’s a positive effect that results from that attention. It’s a long road, but it starts with actions like we took with H.B. 2526. I hope this new law ultimately saves lives.” 

For his efforts in the 2014 session on behalf of women and children, Holt was given awards this year by the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women and Parent Promise, representing the Exchange Club and Prevent Child Abuse Oklahoma.