The Senate has given approval to two measures aimed at increasing transparency in government. The full Senate voted in favor of Senate Bill 1513, by Sen. David Holt, which ensures dash-cam video recorded by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) would be subject to the state’s open records law. Senate Bill 1497, also by Holt, would enable citizens to seek injunctions when public bodies are in violation of the state’s open meetings law. Both measures were approved on Tuesday afternoon with wide bipartisan support.
Holt explained under current law, audio and video recordings by other law enforcement agencies, including local police and sheriff’s departments, are subject to Oklahoma’s open records act, but the OHP is exempt.
“Law enforcement has tremendous authority over the rest of us—they can take away our liberty. I believe these recordings will show that overwhelmingly, they are doing their job as they should, but if they are not, the public has a right to know,” said Holt, R-Oklahoma City. “This bill simply ensures parity—in fact when I presented this bill in committee, OHP spoke in favor of its passage.”
A second measure would ensure citizens can bring a civil suit to seek injunctive relief for violation of the state’s open meetings act.
“Right now, if a public body violates the Open Meetings Act by barring someone from a meeting or not properly posting information about what they’re taking up, it’s up to local law enforcement or the prosecutor to do something about it—but that may not be a top priority when they are dealing with violent crime and other problems in the community,” Holt said. “This gives the public the same right they have under the Open Records Act by allowing them to file a civil suit.”
Holt noted the measures were approved just ahead of FOI Oklahoma’s Sunshine Conference this coming weekend and Sunshine week.
“Transparency promotes greater accountability and ultimately ensures the government does a better job on behalf of its citizens,” Holt said.
SB 1513 was approved 40-3, and SB 1497 was approved unanimously on a vote of 43-0. Both measures now move to the House for further consideration.