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;
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.