| July 14, 2011

Transparency advances for Oklahoma taxpayers

When it comes to openness and transparency, Oklahoma taxpayers are having a good summer. In June, OCPA launched, a government transparency website that allows anyone to search financial data for state government in a user-friendly format.

In addition, the Oklahoma House of Representatives recently announced that interim studies will be digitally streamed in real time and archived on the House website. For the first time in Oklahoma’s history, such information is publically accessible without the need to physically travel to the state capitol to attend the meeting.

Besides providing more openness, taxpayer resources are being used more efficiently than ever before. In previous years, no formal record of an interim study was made. In some cases, draft legislation resulted from the study, but in others no meaningful record of the research or testimony was saved for future use.

In recent years, the Oklahoma House and Senate have been willing to experiment with transformative technology in pursuit of openness. The next step should be streaming and archiving House committee meetings during the legislative session. Significant policy discussions and decisions are made in legislative committees, and the public should be able to view, or at least hear, the proceedings via the Internet.

Without transparency in government, the citizens of Oklahoma cannot make informed decisions through their representatives. As James Madison once said, "A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.” These tools will help the Oklahoma taxpayer avoid playing the fool or the victim in the performance of state government.

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