An Oklahoma County judge said she will rule Friday on whether Gov. Mary Fallin must make public 31 more documents about a 2011 decision involving Obamacare.
District Judge Barbara Swinton heard arguments Thursday both for and against release of the documents. However she rules, an appeal is likely.
Fallin in 2011 rejected a $54 million federal grant that would have paid for the creation of an online exchange, or marketplace, in Oklahoma for purchasing private health insurance plans.
She did so after opposition surfaced to establishing the exchange, one of the key components to the new federal health care law known as Obamacare.
Fallin in March 2012 released more than 51,000 pages of documents about her decision in response to requests from The Oklahoman, The Associated Press and other news organizations.
She withheld 31 documents totaling 100 pages. Her general counsel claimed those pages were exempt from the state Open Records Act on the grounds of executive privilege, deliberative process privilege and attorney-client privilege.
Last year, The Lost Ogle, a satirical online news site, sued the governor, asking the judge to order the immediate release of the rest of the documents. Representing The Lost Ogle is the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma.
Brady Henderson, the legal director for the ACLU in Oklahoma, told the judge Thursday the public has a right to know who is influencing the government. He said executive privilege for a governor exists in other states but cannot be found in Oklahoma’s law or constitution.
He argued the records belong to the people. “Ultimately, it’s the people who have the power,” Henderson said.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader, representing the governor, countered the governor’s executive privilege comes from the separation of powers provision of the state Constitution.
He asked the judge to uphold that privilege, saying it is in the public’s interest that a governor get frank, open and even harsh advice before making decisions. Leader said advisers might not be candid if they worried their opinions would not stay confidential.
“The need for candor is almost self-evident,” the assistant attorney general said.