Edmondson says legislature should be subject to sunshine laws
Transparency a start to restoring faith in government
OKLAHOMA CITY, March 12, 2018 – Secret meetings and backroom deals are the everyday norm at our state capitol. That is why gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson today is calling on Oklahoma’s legislature to fully subject its actions to public scrutiny.
The legislature has exempted itself from the Open Meetings Act and Open Records Act, but Edmondson believes the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Oklahoma Senate should be held to the same standards as other public bodies in Oklahoma.
“Government belongs to the people,” Edmondson said. “Every meeting they hold, every document they create – those things do not belong to the legislature, they belong to the people. The legislature should conduct its business in the open, for all to see. Instead, the deals are done and then spoils are distributed in private. What we see in committee hearings and on the floor of the house and senate is simply ceremony.”
A recipient of Freedom of Information Oklahoma’s Marian Opala First Amendment Award, Edmondson has long been recognized as a champion of open government.
“Legislators should know that their constituents are tired of closed-door meetings where corporate CEOs and high-paid lobbyists have seats at the table but everyday Oklahomans are kept in the dark,” Edmondson said. “We can begin to restore trust in Oklahoma government if our elected officials would only let the light shine in.”
Edmondson has pledged as governor to create an Office of Open Government with the sole purpose of ensuring compliance with state and federal sunshine laws.
“Good government dies in the dark,” Edmondson said. “Government agencies should follow the letter of the law but also the spirit of the law. Oklahoma’s openness laws were crafted to ensure that governmental agencies would be responsive to the people they serve. The intent of the laws is that the public be informed. From city hall to the state capitol, government agencies and public officials should stand on the side of openness.”
As attorney general, Edmondson frequently forced government agencies to be more transparent, including issuing an Opinion that declared government email records were public documents available for inspection, filling a gap in public access to electronic communications. Edmondson also created and taught a statewide, multiyear series of educational seminars designed to inform local, county and state officials, as well as the general public, about the requirements of Oklahoma’s sunshine laws.
“Open government is necessary for good government,” Edmondson said. “Our legislators should not hide from us. The decisions they make and the laws they create impact every Oklahoman. We are their constituents and we have the right to hold them accountable for their actions. Legislative leaders should move out of the shadows and into the light.”
A Navy veteran who served our country in Vietnam, Edmondson’s first job upon leaving the military was teaching speech and debate at his alma mater, Muskogee Central High School. Edmondson is a graduate of Northeastern State College and the University of Tulsa School of Law. He is a former district attorney and served four terms as Oklahoma’s attorney general.