The House adjourned Thursday – the last day for bills to pass out of their house of origin – with nine bills left unheard. One of those was HB 1085 by Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) which would have ended the exemption the legislature has from the Open Records Act and Open Meeting Act. Murphey blames a combination of “vicious, intense opposition” to the measure from members of the Republican majority and more than 20 amendments added to the bill. Many of the amendments were added by Rep. Mike Reynolds (R-Oklahoma City) who says without his amendments, the bill had no teeth.
Reynolds says he had to add so many amendments because if he had them all in one bill, it would have been tabled immediately “and I wouldn’t have ever got to describe what the amendments did.” (Click here for the interview with Reynolds) He calls HB1085 “a do-nothing bill” adding that having a bill with teeth was “the last thing that the leadership of the House of Representatives wants.” As for the charge that the number of amendments would take too much time, Reynolds says it would take 30-seconds to accept the amendments by unanimous consent, but “they absolutely didn’t want those amendments being recognized so the best thing to do was to kill the bill.”
Murphey disputes Reynolds’ claim that his amendments strengthened the bill. Murphey says “they would have stripped the bill of all meaning” and that they “didn’t make sense, they weren’t coherent.” (Click here for the interview with Murphey) He adds that hearing all of them would have made for a procedural mess and allowed opponents to insert poison pills. According to Murphey, by not having the bill be amended and then voted down, the idea stays alive for this session. The same language could be added as an amendment to another bill, although Murphey says there would still be strong opposition to work through.
Murphey would not identify which Republican members constituted the “vicious, intense opposition” but did say Speaker Kris Steele not only supported it, but talked with many members in an attempt to get the bill through. Representative Randy Terrill (R-Moore) supported the idea as well, going as far as offering an amendment to a bill last week which would have added the legislature to the Open Records Act, excluding correspondence with a constituent as long as that constituent was not a registered lobbyist. When an attempt to table that amendment failed, the bill was laid over and not heard again.
As for what supporters of transparency should think about the bill not being heard, both lawmakers say if they get re-elected to another term, they would like to try the idea again next year.