Legislature needs more openness.

THE ISSUE: Legislature needs more openness

OUR OPINION: Citizens have right to better access

State House Republicans gathered in Tulsa this past week for their annual caucus retreat. Reportedly, the aim of the gathering was to lay the groundwork for the upcoming legislative session.

According to an account by The Associated Press, the caucus typically meets to discuss strategy and develop its priorities before the start of the session, which begins on the first Monday in February.

The AP article points out the priorities for Republican leaders this session are changing the state's pension system for newly hired state workers.

House Speaker T.W. Shannon also has called for changes in how Oklahoma judges are selected and retained.

How about inserting legislative openness to the priorities and placing it ahead of how judges are selected and retained.

There’s little doubt changes need to be implemented in the state’s pension systems. The unfunded liabilities continue to be staggering.

We don’t the issue over judges is nearly as pressing as either the pension system or more openness. It’s time for the Legislature to make some changes.

Lawmakers should stop exempting themselves from the same laws which is required of most every other public entity at all levels of government in Oklahoma.

It seems they place themselves above theconstituents they represent.

Openness is the best policy for Oklahoma’s Legislature to operate under and citizens across the state should be talking to their representatives and senators right now about this issue.

A year ago we wrote about this very issue. Oklahoma remains one of just three states in which the Legislature has a specific exemption to the Open Records Act that applies to other government entities.

It’s one of eight states that have an exemption from the Open Meetings Act.

We wonder what our lawmakers think about their double standard?

We’d encourage our area lawmakers like State Reps. Justin Wood, Tom Newell, Josh Cockroft and State Sens. Ron Sharp, Harry Coates and Susan Paddack to introduce legislation and work with other lawmakers to make this reality.

Operating in the completely wide open isn’t always easy nor comfortable. But it’s the absolute best method for complete accountability with the public they serve.

Let’s remember, lawmakers are like any other public officials, elected or appointed. They are conducting the public’s business, not their own business.

Too often many of them seem to forget this and lose focus of that fact.

At all times they have to be considered accountable to the constituencies they serve.

Republicans have control of the House, the Senate and the governorship. It’s for them to take the lead to ensure the Legislature comes under the same standards it requires of all other public entities in Oklahoma.