This year, Representative Charles Key presented the Oklahoma House of Representatives with a proposed rule change to require that all bills must receive a hearing from the House committee to which they were assigned.
I have observed at all levels of government that those who do not want to be on the record with a controversial vote will try to control the agenda and deprive one of their own members from the right to place an item before the group for consideration. Filtering agenda items
through a chairman or mayor is probably the most common method used by those who wish to have exclusive control over the agenda.
I have always felt that it should be a fundamental right of an elected official to place an item before a board and at the very least receive an on-the-record vote.
At some point in the past, the Legislature put in place the system by which the chairman of a committee was granted the discretion over which bills would be heard and which bills would not receive consideration.
There are rarely used provisions of the rules that allow the members of a committee to bypass the chairman, but excising these provisions are so controversial that they are almost never attempted.
This vests a tremendous amount of authority in the handful of a few chairmen and essentially creates two classes of legislators. As you might imagine, the special interests and lobbyists heavily invest in a chairman’s re-election committees, almost guaranteeing the chairman’s
re-election. Of course, this also makes the chairman very responsive to the special interests.
This warps the policy-making process and in my view, provides an unhealthy advantage to the special interest.
I am certainly the first to admit that many bad pieces of legislation quickly disappear without consideration because of this system. This is probably the most convincing argument used by the proponents of the status quo. But I am a big believer in the fact that even if it costs him his next election, it is the job of the legislator to man up andvote “No” on bad legislation.
I supported the Key proposal. While his effort was not successful this year, I believe that the groundwork has been laid for continual reforms in this area. Over the past seven years, the House has experienced a series of process and transparency reforms and I am optimistic that they will continue in a responsible yet consistent manner. In my view, the time is not far off when each bill will receive a hearing.
Next week, I will write about how I reconcile my belief that each bill should be heard with my responsibilities as a committee chairman in a system where committee chairmen are expected to kill bad legislation.
State Representative Jason Murphey
State Capitol Building – Room #437
2300 North Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
1(405) 557-7350 (Office)
1(405) 315-5064 (Cell)