Oklahoma Senate should invest in transparency

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: June 15, 2012

WE supported legislation this year applying open meetings and open records laws to the Legislature. That didn't happen, but a new infusion of cash gives lawmakers, particularly those in the Senate, the opportunity to increase transparency.

This year's budget agreement included $1 million extra for both the Oklahoma House and the Senate. Now that the Senate has extra money, it should use new technology to at least match what the House provides in terms of public access to the legislative process.

For three years, the Oklahoma House has had live video streaming of all floor sessions, with archived video available on-demand through the chamber's website. The Senate should consider a similar upgrade. Currently, the Senate streams floor activity using two cameras, but those cameras provide only an extremely wide shot of the floor. In comparison, you can recognize specific lawmakers when you watch debate on the House system.

Furthermore, while the Senate maintains audio archives of all floor activity and makes that material available upon request, the House has floor archives for every session since 2005 posted online (audio only for 2005-2009, and video from 2010 to present). To be able to watch/listen to floor debate on demand is no small thing and an invaluable resource for citizens. Most Oklahomans work for a living. They can't watch the mid-day sessions live, but that should not mean they can't easily review a debate at their own convenience.

The Senate does stream video from its two largest committee rooms; the House merely streams audio. However, the Senate doesn't archive that material online. The House does. This is another area where the Senate should consider an upgrade.

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