Oklahoma House Rules (still) Stink

Kaye Beach

May 18, 2011

Rep. Paul Wesselhoft bestowed his annual Skunk Master Award for 2011 to HR 1008, the very first measure voted on this session, addressing the rules. More specifically the award goes to the failure to accept the amendment offered to the rules that woulds have help to ensure a more fair and transparent legislative process.

This week, I am supporting a discharge petition that, if signed by 68 House members, would bring this much needed amendment back to the floor for a vote.  We are just days away from the end of session and I ask that everyone who would like to see our state legislature operate in a more open and fair manner, to please ask their state representatives to sign the discharge petition. (if you don’t know who your representative is, click here)

So far these Representatives have firmly  declined to sign the open government rule discharge petition;

Josh Cockroft
Ann Coody
Doug Cox
Charie Joyner
Steve Martin
Guy Liebmann
Charles Ortega
Steve Vaughan

Phil Richardson

(See, Our State Legislature is Broken! Restoring Representative Government – Mon-Wed this week )

HR 1008

OK-SAFE  At the beginning of each 2-year session, both the House and Senate adopt rules by which they will operate for those 2 years. These rules define not only the duties of the legislators and dictate their day-to-day conduct (no cussin’, swearin’, or spittin’), they determine how the legislative process will be conducted.

HR 1008 House Rules started from a template of last session’s rules and included changes offered by a 5-member committee who met prior to the beginning of session.

(If you’d like to hear an discussion about the pros and cons of permitting our state legislature to operate in a more open and representative fashion, listen to this conversation recorded at a Republican meeting about a week ago.  It sure convinced me!)

Writes Rep. Wesselhoft

“With the exception of the budget bill, there is not a more important bill or resolution than the resolution which governs or rules the House of representatives.

. . .This Rules resolution was amended by Rep. Charles Key to make it the most fair, democratic, and transparent manner to govern a legislative body in state history! The failure of the Key amendment and those who voted against it is the Skunk Master Award.

Had the Key amendment passed, it would have made state history, set a model for the nation, and been the Crown Jewell of Speaker Steel’s administration. Unfortunately, leadership forfeited a great historical opportunity.

The Key amendment failure insured that dictatorial power, if desired, would be summerly exercised by the chairs, the Floor Leader, and ultimately the Speaker.

Those few leaders have virtually absolute authority not to allow a bill or resolution a hearing; this abuse occurred numerous times, caused ill will among Democrats and Republicans, fractured the House and alienated many Republicans within their own majority caucus.

 Read the rest on “Socrates”  and join “Socrates on Facebook“!

4 responses to “Oklahoma House Rules (still) Stink

  1. Thank you for your good work!

  2. not that simple

    I’m torn on this because we would also decry extending the legislative session (becoming a more “professional” legislature) to accomodate the additional committee time necessary. Foreseeably, this could increase the length of session by 4-6, at an approximate cost of $150,000+ per additional week.

  3. Carrie Krapff

    Hi Kaye,
    The names of Cockroft and Richardson on your list of those refusing to sign somewhat surprised me. The rest? Uhhh, not so much! Have they given you a reason?

    In repsonse to the comment from “not that simple” (which seems a valid point) methinks that there are probably some processes at the statehouse which could be streamlined, reorganized, etc. to help offset the increased workload created by the additional transparency. There are probably some legislators or staffers who could offer some insight on that issue.

    How can I discern whether or not my rep (Colby Schwartz) has signed yet? Thank you for your passion and committment to liberty, honesty, character and integrity… they get me every time. Now more than ever.

  4. Hi Carrie,
    I will get a complete list of who did and didn’t sign as soon as session ends. Some legislators have given a firm “no” though and I will get that list up asap. Schwartz, to my knowlege has not responded either way so there is still the possibility that he might sign.
    The most common reason given is It would take too much time. Also some legislators indicated that they were working internally with leadership to come up with another method of reform and one frankly indicated that he was new and… what would I do if I were in his shoes? I told him I’d probably keep my head low and my powder dry but I’m not running for office either. LOL! And if I was I would have to do what I thought was right. I think it is telling that the minority almost unanimously signed. Why? because of course they would like to have a fair shot at having their bills heard.
    Why would I support this when the majority of the minority is the democrats when I am a Republican? Because they are sent there to represent the people that elected them and I want the people of this state to have fair representation. Also, other minority members are in the minority because their sensibilities are opposed to the prevailing ideology (or lack thereof) of the pro-corporate interests, pro federal control, individual liberty killing majority. After a few years of this, I’m afraid that most of what Oklahoma had going for it will be no more.

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