Monday, March 5, 2012

Open Government Measures Advance

 Oklahoma taxpayers may soon have the right to file open records requests online, gain the ability to track the status of requests for vital records, have better purview of legislative meetings, and realize hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings through state government reorganization and consolidation.
            This and more would take place through the implementation of a series of aggressive government modernization initiatives that were approved prior to last week’s committee deadline and now proceed to the full house.
“Government efficiency and transparency should be the rule rather than the exception. An efficient, transparent government means more effective services for the public, more money back in the hands of taxpayers and more access to their government for all citizens,” said House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee
“This year a team of legislators have stepped up and sponsored a series of transparency and cost cutting initiatives. If approved these bills will cut costs to the taxpayers while also providing them with new tools to hold government accountable,” said state Rep. Jason Murphey, who chairs the Government Modernization committee.
            The 2012 government modernization initiatives include among others the following bills.
            House Bill 3053, by Speaker Steele and state Sen. Kim David, follows up on Speaker’s Steele’s successful government agency consolidation bill and consolidates additional state agencies. A report released by the Office of State Finance demonstrates that the taxpayers will save $6 million each year from the consolidation. This amount is far in excess of the savings initially mandated by last year’s bill.
            House Bill 2379, by state Rep. Josh Cockroft, will establish an online open records request portal to empower taxpayers with quick access to government documents.
            House Bill 2991, by state Rep. Mike Ritze, will streamline and cut the cost of delivering vital records such as birth certificates through the Department of Health website.
            House Joint Resolution 1075, by Murphey and state Sen. Greg Treat, will allow the state auditor to conduct performance audits of state agencies and programs.
            House Bill 2646, by state Rep. David Brumbaugh, significantly expands the House’s recent purchasing system reforms, which have saved $22 million over the past two years.
            House Bill 2940, by state Rep. David Derby, would implement provisions of a recently concluded consultant’s report showing millions of dollars could be saved from the consolidation of the state-owned IT fiber networks including the OneNet fiber network.
            House Bill 2771, by state Rep. Aaron Stiles, builds on the recently created business one-stop, which is designed to allow Oklahoma small business owners to receive their licenses and permits online instead of having to wait in line at a state bureaucracy.
            House Bill 2482, by state. Rep. Lewis Moore, would enable the state to better manage the issuance of worker’s comp insurance.
            House Bill 1085, by Murphey and state Sen. David Holt, would apply open meeting and open records laws to the Legislature. The Oklahoma Legislature is one of the last in the nation to maintain an exemption from these laws.
House Bill 2587, by state Rep. Elise Hall, would allow taxpayers to see the debt incurred by state officials. Her bill creates an online one-stop where the amount of the state’s debt can be easily visualized.

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