Legislators approve government transparency bills

In the final votes required for both bills, state senators unanimously agreed Tuesday to put online the details of state spending and tax credits while House members approved posting school spending on the Internet.

Both bills go to Gov. Brad Henry for his signature.

HB 3422 requires the Office of State Finance to list each individual state expenditure separately instead of as lump sums.

The database, which must be in place by Jan. 1, will be searchable by the name of the recipient, the entity making the purchase and the date of the expenditure.

The Office of State Finance must also create a searchable online archive for each fiscal year starting with the 2011 tax year.

HB 3422 also requires the Oklahoma Tax Commission to publish online a list of all taxpayers who have claimed any tax credit. The information would be made public on Open Books, the state’s taxpayer transparency Web site.

The searchable, downloadable database would include the identity of all taxpayers or organizations having any part in the chain of custody or claim to the tax credit. The information would be available beginning with the 2011 tax year.

In the House on Tuesday, representatives approved SB 1633, the School District Transparency Act, by a 77-22 vote.

The bill requires the state Department of Education to post on its Web site by Jan. 30 a free, searchable database of school district expenditures of state, federal and local funds.

Not included will be payments of voluntary payroll deductions for employees to receiving parties.

Otherwise, the database must include:

  1. The school district
  2. The name and principal location of the entity or recipient of the funds, excluding release of information relating to an individual’s place of residence, release of information prohibited by subsection D of Section 24A.7 of Title 51 of the Oklahoma Statutes, or by federal law relating to privacy rights
  3. The amount of funds expended
  4. The type of transaction
  5. A descriptive purpose of the funding action or expenditure.
The department must make the data available online within 120 days of receiving the information from the school district.

The bill requires school districts to provide the information when requested by the state but provides no schedule for such requests or deadline for districts to respond.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.