Meetings of Oklahoma House conferees on final agency budgets will be open from now on, but lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle disagree as to why the change was made.
Republican House members say that the change is a bow to pressure they applied for openness at a meeting Wednesday morning in the House chamber, but House Speaker Larry Adair, D-Stilwell, said that is not what happened.
That's not true, the speaker said later. I've said all along I'm going to be inclusive.
Adair said that the 87-member-strong House contingent of the General Conference Committee on Appropriations met in the House chamber to accommodate members in comfort. He said there was even some discussion of obtaining a program whereby they could use the House voting machine to record their intentions, but there would be an additional cost.
Adair said that a question was raised about opening GCCA meetings, not subcommittee meetings. Full meetings of the joint conference panel have been opened previously, he said. The only change, he said, is that now both pre-vote discussions and the votes themselves will be conducted in open meetings.
We're not attempting to hide anything from anybody, Adair said.
Meetings will be returned to Room 432-A of the State Capitol rather than the chamber. Adair said it is somewhat easier to keep members in a committee room as opposed to the chamber, when they tend to wander off during discussions.
House Republicans have a different view of what occurred.
We've been trying for 20 years to end the incredible secrecy at the State Capitol, said Rep. Frank Davis, R-Guthrie. I guess the Democrat leadership finally sees the writing on the wall. They understand that the people of Oklahoma will no longer stand for a government that is run behind closed doors. It's simply wrong for the Legislature to spend the people's money under cloak and veil. Public scrutiny is essential to a process as important as this.
Rep. Forrest Claunch, R-Midwest City, said he requested that House meetings of the General Conference Committee on Appropriations be opened to the public, but Rep. …