A few days ago I received the following text from the Majority Floor Leader of the House of Representatives: "Mr. Chairman, I respectfully request you hear my HB 1461 creating the Oklahoma Sunset Commission. It is based off the extremely successful and innovative Texas Sunset Commission. I personally believe it will be one of the best things we could do to shrink the size of government."
The text almost caught me off guard: "A member of House leadership is speaking the language of government efficiency. How refreshing is this?"
Those of us who serve on the Government Modernization committee are charged with finding and hearing legislation to increase government transparency and cut cost to Oklahoma taxpayers.
It's has been exciting to see that these proposals are coming forward from both house leadership officials and the freshmen members of the House who are already sponsoring great ideas for reform.
During the first week of session we got right to work and signed off on a series of these measures.
They include the previously mentioned legislation by House Floor Leader Jon Echols to sunset state agencies. His House Bill 1461 seeks to duplicate the work of the Texas Sunset Commission. Since its creation in the Texas commission has abolished 37 agencies or government programs and consolidated another 46 agencies and programs.
There's probably no way to measure the additional intangible benefits resulting from the government agencies' awareness of the comprehensive sunset process. They must fear that their inefficiency could become justification for their consolidation or elimination.
Freshman state representative, fellow-Edmond area representative and committee member Mike Osburn is wasting no time in advocating for new efficiencies. Osburn's House Bill 1234, his first to win committee approval, allows for the digitization of paper documents. Once digitized, government entities will be relieved from the significant cost of warehousing the millions of old documents. Osburn developed the proposal in conjunction with area County Commissioner Ray Vaughn's office.
Rep. Chuck Strohm, a member of our committee, won approval for his proposal to give the public better purview of school district finances. His House Bill 1509 makes school district financial documents available for online access.
HB 2248 by Rep. David Brumbaugh, a long time advocate of transparency and openness, creates an "open records one stop shop" through which members of the public will request public records without having to navigate the maze of varied state government bureaucracies which currently oversee these requests.
These were just a few of the reform proposals approved by our committee. They demonstrate the commitment of our colleagues to do the right thing by the people of Oklahoma. Their ideas, if approved by the Legislature, will have a positive impact upon Oklahomans for many years to come.
Over the course of the next few months, much of the news will be dominated by the attempts to increase taxes and the size of state government.
Please do know that despite those attempts, there are a number of state legislators who are committed to the ideals of a lower tax burden on Oklahomans, and a smaller more efficient state government and we are wasting no time in advancing our ideas.