Open Government Pledge signer named to House panel looking to make legislative process more transparent

A two-time signer of FOI Oklahoma's Open Government Pledge was named on Friday to a House panel told to make the legislative process more open for the public.

Rep. David Dank of Oklahoma City has twice publicly pledged to support the inherent right of Oklahomans "to know and be fully informed about their government so that they can efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power."

Dank is joined on the House working group by fellow Republicans Jeff Hickman of Dacoma, Gary Banz of Midwest City, Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City and Dan Sullivan of Tulsa.

House Speaker-elect Kris Steele said he is "serious about bold reform" and expects the group to "develop proposals that significantly change the way things are done at the Oklahoma Capitol."

Among the rules changes to be considered:

  • Open the conference committee process to allow actual meetings and public votes on conference committee reports.
  • Put in place even during the final two days of the session a 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.
  • Post conference committee reports online for member and public review with a link to previous versions of the bill available so changes can be more easily spotted.

The current conference committee system has created a situation fertile for abuse. Despite the name "committee," as KWTV noted in July, most don't actually meet to reconcile the differences between House and Senate versions of bills.
"No, it's a piece of paper that has signature lines on it," said Rep. Ryan Kiesel, D-Seminole.
KWTV noted that the author of a bill sent to a conference committee needs only to get signatures from a majority of the committee members to bring it back for a floor vote.
Kiesel said the system allows unscrupulous legislators to insert self-serving language and then use personal or political persuasion to get enough committee members to agree.
Any notion of real legislative transparency is "out the window," he told the station.
Steele said he believes "increased public scrutiny and oversight is vital to a healthy democracy, and technological advances now allow us to be more user-friendly than ever."
"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," he said.
Coverage of working group:

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

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.