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Oklahoma lawmakers discuss measure that would shine light on Legislature

House Bill 1085 would make the Oklahoma Legislature subject to the same transparency laws applied to city councils, school districts and other public bodies after decades of exemption from open meetings and records laws.
by Juliana Keeping Published: March 11, 2012

When it comes to openness in the Oklahoma legislature, the wheels of change have turned slowly, said House Speaker Kris Steele, speaking on a panel of lawmakers Saturday for a summit on government openness.

Steele, R-Shawnee, along with state Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, and state Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, hope a new measure will jump start efforts to shine light on government at the state Capitol.

The three discussed a measure under consideration in the House next week that would pry open records and meetings at the Capitol that have evaded public scrutiny for decades.

Murphey, the author of House Bill 1085, noted Oklahoma legislators do not have to comply with the same transparency laws other public bodies and public servants do, from cities and schools all the way up to the White House.

“It's absolutely inappropriate that they don't,” he said. “It's hypocritical and I think everyone knows that.”

The lawmakers were speaking at an event hosted Saturday at The Oklahoman by FOI Oklahoma to kick off Sunshine Week, March 11-17.

“It's a good opportunity that oftentimes provides protections to those elected officials who are just doing the right thing, because the truth comes out, and the truth is the ultimate protection,” Murphey said.

Holt agreed.

“The sum total of the wisdom of our constituents exceeds the wisdom of the legislators or the city council members, and that not going to be imparted to us unless they know what's going on. That's the virtue of open meetings and open records acts.”

At City Hall, where Holt served as chief of staff for Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, officials spent weeks deliberating decisions, partly because of Open Meetings laws.

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by Juliana Keeping
Enterprise Reporter
Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award...
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