open records measure
Persons whose request for records of state and local public bodies are denied would have another option instead of filing a lawsuit in court, under a bill approved Thursday by the House of Representatives Government Modernization Committee. House Bill 1450 would allow those whose Open Records Act requests were denied to appeal to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, the bill's author, said that when state or local government agencies wrongfully deny access, the only way to appeal is to file a lawsuit or persuade a local district attorney to file criminal charges. Violating the open records or meeting laws is a misdemeanor. Murphey said the state has received low scores from a national watchdog group on public access to information because Oklahoma has no appeal process for citizens to turn to when their request for public records is denied. HB 1450 passed 11-1. It now goes to the House Calendar Committee, which will decide whether it should advance to the full House.
House passes bond cap legislation
The House on Thursday passed House Bill 2195, which would establish a cap on the state's bond debt. Under the bill, by House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, a new requested bond could not push the amount of the state's total bond debt over the current level of about $1.9 billion. The state's bond indebtedness does not include higher education bond issues. The House passed the bill 78-17. It now goes to the Senate. Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said he had reservations about the measure. Bingman said Oklahoma is a low-debt state. He said he is concerned that bond rating agencies could lower Oklahoma's rating, which could result in higher interest rates, if a bond cap was put into place.
House studies home visitation programs
House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, said Thursday he is asking Reps. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa, and Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, to form a bipartisan group to examine the state's home visitation programs. McCullough and other House members have voiced concerns over the decline in families being serviced and the effectiveness of the Children's First Home Visitation Program over the past decade. Workers under the program visit the homes of at-risk families to evaluate living conditions of children. Members will look at each state visitation program over the next year and talk with affected constituents and local and national experts.