BY STATE REP. CHARLES KEY
Published in The Oklahoman February 2, 2011
The Legislature has a historic opportunity to end special interest influence and restore representative government. We have a systemic flaw in our rules that encourages government secrecy, corrupts politicians and cuts the heart out of representative government.
The problem: Bills are assigned to committees whose chairmen exercise dictatorial control over whether a bill gets a fair hearing. Without discussion or vote, chairmen can arbitrarily kill any legislation they choose.
If a legislator is unable to get his or her bill heard, then representative government is essentially dead. Many good bills never get a fair hearing and recorded vote because the committee chairman chooses not to hear them. Legislators are able to avoid taking a public position on difficult issues. The people are the losers.
This kind of power was never envisioned by America‘s Founders or the authors of our state constitution. They meant for the legislative process to be open to all the people’s representatives (legislators) so that all ideas could be heard and debated in search for the best ones. This moral issue is the foundation of representative government and a free society.
This dictatorial power results in government secrecy, which favors backroom deals and political corruption. It is common for a person to enter politics and, because of the way the system operates, to become progressively compromised. This flaw in our system encourages and rewards corruption.
Voter alienation is a major factor leading to the rise of the tea party movement. The people have been so disenfranchised by secret government that voter registration, as well as voting, is at all-time record lows. Citizens believe they have no real influence on government and that their best interests aren’t represented. Instead, special interests buy influence and favor. No wonder the people choose not to vote and participate in what they feel is a rigged political system.
We’re in a national economic crisis. Bankruptcy looms for the federal government and many states. No longer can we afford “politics as usual.” We need unrestricted frank discussion to examine all ideas about how we got here and how to correct it, and to restore Americans’ faith in their government.
The solution is the Open Government Rule: The House and Senate need to change their rules to assure that every bill that a legislator wants heard gets a fair hearing in committee and recorded vote. And every bill that passes committee gets a fair hearing and recorded vote on the floor.
This rule change will assure that the people, through their representatives, get a fair hearing for their ideas. Just as important, the people will be able to hold their representatives accountable. No longer will politicians be able to say one thing while doing something else.
On Monday, I’m proposing the Open Government Rule for the House of Representatives. This is the most important thing we can do to restore good government to Oklahoma. If you agree, please ask your representative to support open government.
Key, R-Oklahoma City, represents District 90 in the Oklahoma House
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