Opening legislative caucus meetings likely to stir most opposition to HB 1085, Rep. Murphey says

Requiring state legislative caucuses to discuss the public's business in public will likely create the most opposition to a bill forcing the Legislature to abide by Oklahoma's open government laws, Rep. Jason Murphey said Friday.

"Closed caucus meetings have been an institution forever, and legislators like the ability to talk behind closed doors," the Guthrie Republican told the FOI Oklahoma Blog after filing House Bill 1085 on Friday.

(Read more about the bill.)

In an Edmond Sun column last month, Murphey said opening legislative caucuses is "one of the most important aspects" of his proposal.

"An important principle of open meeting laws is the concept that dictates that a majority of a governing body should never meet behind closed doors to discuss business. This concept helps keep policy makers from taking a public stand different from the position taken in private," Murphey wrote.

On Friday, Murphey seemed optimistic that his bill would pass if he can get it heard in committee and the House floor.

"I do think there is bi-partisan support for the idea. And, make no mistake about it, anytime this bill is given a vote, it will pass overwhelmingly," he said. "This challenge will be getting the hearing in committee and on the floor."

Murphey said he thinks HB 1085 will be assigned to the House Rules Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Gary W. Banz, R-Midwest City.

The bill should find support in that committee because Vice Chair Weldon Watson, R-Tulsa, and three committee members -- David Dank, R-Oklahoma City; Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City; and Seneca Scott, D-Tulsa -- signed FOI Oklahoma's Open Government Pledge.

Other House members who signed the pledge are:

Gov. Mary Fallin also signed the pledge and as a candidate last spring said she supports removing the Legislature's exemption from the Open Records and Open Meeting laws.
In the Senate, Josh Breechen, R-Coalgate, Roger Ballenger, D-Okmulgee, and minority leader Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, signed the pledge.
Along with Murphey, each of these politicians promised to support the public's right to know at every opportunity and to "support legislation to strengthen the letter and the spirit of Oklahoma's Open Meeting and Open Records laws."
That's why Murphey should be able to count on their public support for HB 1085.

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.