The bill filing deadline for the Legislature was last week, so those who follow state government are wading through the more than 2,000 bills or resolutions filed. The session kicks off at noon Feb. 7.
As is the case every session, expect these initial bills to be changed significantly along the way. Some will die after not being heard in committee. The language in some will magically reappear later in the session under another bill number, sometimes by another member. It’s like a giant game of Whac-A-Mole.
If you know of any that should be added to the list, drop me a line in the comments section below.
Click on the bill number for the full text
Subject: Records of county officers
Summary: This takes some authority away from county clerks and puts each county office holder in charge of destroying records after a period of time.
Subject: Electric Utility Data Protection Act
Summary: Regulates data disclosures from those new electric “Smart Meters” that are popping up all across the state.
Subject: Public bodies
Summary: Would make the Legislature subject to the Oklahoma Open Records and Open Meetings Act. It adds an exception to the law for correspondence between lawmakers and constituents (but not correspondence between lawmakers and lobbyists). See the FOI Oklahoma blog for more.
Subject: Public bodies
Summary: This is similar in scope to HB 1085 above.
Subject: School district information online
Summary: This would add more information to the School District Transparency Act, which passed last year and puts certain financial information of school districts on a website. The site is supposed to be up and running by the end of this month.
Brumbaugh’s bill would expand the disclosure to “direct and indirect costs” of education, including contributions to the Teachers Retirement System. It also directs the state Department of Education to create “benchmarks” to compare the costs of private and public education.
Subject: First responders and recording devices
Summary: This would make it a crime for first responders such as police, ambulance drivers and paramedics to take video or pictures at an accident scene and post them to public websites or send them to other people. It appears this is in response to the scuffle caught on tape a few years ago between a paramedic and a trooper.
Subject: Exemption to attorney-client privilege
Summary: This would take out an exemption for attorney-client communications if they are between a public official or agency and its attorney.
Subject: Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission
Summary: Adds the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission to a list of other law-enforcement agencies whose information or evidence are not public if used by the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
Subject: Open Books
Author: Sean Roberts
Summary: Adds to the information on the state’s Open Books website by amending the Taxpayer Transparency Act. It would require each agency to provide a “line-item expense report” of all spending.
The bill also amends state law to prohibit elected agency directors from giving raises to employees in the period from just before an election until swearing-in day. It would appear to outlaw the raises that went on in the “lame-duck” period for departing agency heads that I wrote about in December.
Summary: Requires public employees who lobby for state agencies to register as lobbyists with the state Ethics Commission. Currently, agency lobbyists are exempt from registration requirements.
Subject: Public records
Summary: Adds a section to the Open Records Act that expressly stops government entities from asking requesters to fill out forms to request records. It also prohibits government from asking the purpose of a request or requiring a name of the requester.
Subject: Public records
Summary: Adds a time period to the Open Records Act. Currently, public bodies must provide “prompt, reasonable access” to records. This bill would set up 30-day and 60-day deadlines. It sounds good in theory, but in my experience, many agencies or governments would want to use that entire 30-day period to respond.
The bill also expands the Open Records Act to cover private contractors who do business with the state. Another section of the bill requires that “convenience fees” assessed for online services go to the state agency to recover costs before they go to the private contractor providing the online website. This would appear to hit the state’s website operator, NIC Inc.
Subject: Public records; DPS audio/video recordings
Summary: This would add public employee birth dates and employee ID numbers to the list of exempt information under the Open Records Act. Terrill tried–and failed–several times last year to get this passed. He had lots of support from employee associations such as the Oklahoma Public Employee Association and the Oklahoma State Troopers Association. This is the subject of a pending Oklahoma Supreme Court case.
The bill would also set up a fee schedule for dash-cam videos and other records from the state Department of Public Safety.
Joey Senat, associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University, has more on this bill over at the FOI Oklahoma Blog.
Summary: This is a shell bill called “The Oklahoma Sunshine Act of 2011.” There’s no other information in it right now other than an effective date of Nov. 1, 2011.
Subject: Oklahoma Public Events Network
Author: Jolley (Murphey in the House)
Summary: Directs the state’s public television network, OETA, to develop a C-SPAN-like network called the Oklahoma Public Events Network. The bill does not provide a funding source.
Subject: County assessor fees
Summary: Would allow the state Board of Equalization to set up a fee schedule for copies of Geographic Information System files or other electronic records prepared and maintained by county assessors. This has been a subject of several lawsuits in the last few years. The charges for such data vary widely among county assessors in Oklahoma.
Property owners would not be charged for records relating to their own property. The revenue from the fees would go back to each county assessor.
Subject: District Attorney records
Summary: Would give district attorneys the authority to destroy files and evidence of investigations after a certain period of time. Current law allows DAs to destroy records on actual cases after a set period of time. This bill would expand that to records of an investigation.
Subject: Economic development
Summary: Adds the State Regents for Higher Education and state colleges and universities to an expanding list of agencies that are allowed to keep records confidential that pertain to “economic development.” Among the agencies already enjoying this exemption are the Commerce Department, CareerTech and the Oklahoma Film and Music Office.
Subject: Open records
Summary: This is similar to HB 1941 described above in that it prevents government from requiring the public to fill out specific forms or identify themselves in records requests.
Subject: Open Meetings
Summary: Adds a new category to the Open Meetings Act called a “limited-support body.” It defines that as a unit that receives less than 15 percent of its funding from public funds. It exempts such “limited-support bodies” from the Open Meetings Act under certain circumstances and also allows them to conduct meetings via teleconference.
Subject: Court records
Summary: Prevents courts from sealing divorce records or other marriage and family records under Title 43, including child custody records. Those records could remain sealed if they are required by the Oklahoma Constitution or another statute.
Summary: Creates the “Private Attorney Retention Sunshine Act.” It would require state agencies to put out bid notices on their websites if they want to hire private attorneys for legal work that costs more than $5,000. For legal work expected to cost more than $500,000, more information has to filed with the governor’s office.
My former colleague Julie Bisbee and I wrote about this issue in 2009. Previous bills on the subject have not survived.
Subject: DPS records
Summary: Allows the Department of Public Safety to destroy records that have already been copied onto microfilm or scanned into a computer system.
***Full disclosure: I am a board member of FOI Oklahoma Inc.
Written by Paul Monies