Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

July 14, 2011

House Increases Transparency of Legislative Studies

State Rep. Lisa J. Billy
Oklahoma House of Representatives

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — Following the conclusion of the session, lawmakers conduct numerous studies on issues that could require legislation in the coming year.

Unfortunately, in the past, public access to those studies typically required being physically present at the Capitol. Although much productive work can occur during these meetings, the Legislature has not chronicled or recorded study results the way we document our activity during the session. As a result, the public was often kept in the dark about the outcome of studies.

Thankfully, reforms implemented this summer will allow all Oklahoma citizens to review the findings and presentations from all House studies for years to come.

Starting this year, the House will publish official reports detailing the outcomes of all interim studies. Once an interim study is complete, a summary report of its work and recommendations will be posted on the House website and archived for future reference. All documents and presentations used during interim study committee hearings will also be posted on the House website and archived.

In addition, audio of interim study committee hearings will be streamed live on the House website and archived on the House website for future review.

I believe this simple reform will pay dividends for years to come. I

For one thing, an incomplete record of interim committee work shortchanges the legislative process and, ultimately, the public.

Even if an interim study does not lead directly to legislation, the findings of the study may prove useful for some other initiative in future years. By preserving the work of interim study committees, we can prevent future duplication of efforts and ineffective use of time and resources.

Also, in this age of term limits, it is important to keep institutional knowledge intact at the Legislature.

These changes are just the latest in the House’s ongoing commitment to transparency and public access.

During the 2011 legislative session the House required its conference committees to provide advance public posting of agendas and proposed legislation, and to then debate and vote on those bills in public. In past years, conference committee work was done behind closed doors without public oversight.

This year we also eliminated the use of “shell bills” in the appropriations process. In the past, lawmakers spent hours voting on appropriations bills that contained no numbers, a pointless and wasteful process that benefitted no one.

In addition, since 2004, the House has archived recordings of all House floor activity and required roll call votes in committee that are posted online immediately.

For our democracy to work, citizens must have access to all relevant information about their elected representatives, and I am proud to advance reforms that help Oklahomans stay informed.

As always, feel free to contact me at (405)557-7365 or write me at State Capitol Office 302A, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105.