This summer, we urged the Oklahoma Senate to use part of its budget to boost legislative transparency because Senate action was too often essentially hidden from view.
Roll-call votes weren't posted online for committee activity. In this day and age, Oklahomans should be able to readily learn how a senator voted on a particular bill in committee without having to be physically present at the meeting.
We were also concerned that the Senate didn't provide online archive recordings of floor debates that would allow citizens to review those arguments at their convenience.
As a news organization, The Oklahoman obviously has a vested interest in ready access to lawmakers' voting records and public debate, but transparency also serves a greater public good. It allows for an informed electorate. It prevents lawmakers from thinking they can campaign one way at home and vote another way at the Capitol. It also establishes a record of legislative intent that can impact legal challenges to specific laws in future years.
So the Senate now deserves praise for dramatic improvement in transparency. In recent months, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, has announced several significant initiatives.
All Senate committee rooms now provide streaming audio and video, and real-time committee votes will be available on the Internet. All materials presented in interim studies and committee meetings are being made available online. High-resolution cameras have been added to the Senate chamber, and those watching proceedings online will be able to link to associated bill text. Archived, searchable audio archives of the Senate's legislative sessions will be available online.
Most Oklahomans may never need to use those services, but they remain a wise investment of resources. Transparency fosters better government. The Senate leadership is to be commended for advancing that cause.