From his seat near the back of the Oklahoma House of
Representatives, state Rep. Joe Dorman has a pretty good view of the
Occasionally, a fellow lawmaker will drift over to discuss an
Once in a while, a page will bring in a small slip of paper
requesting Dorman's presence in the lobby, outside the House
But a lot of the time, if you look closely, you'll find Dorman on
his computer, reading legislation, posting updates on Facebook or
sending and receiving tweets on the Web site Twitter.
You'll also find him sending and receiving text messages.
"I try to post on Facebook and let people know what's going on,"
said Dorman, a Rush Springs Democrat. "But a lot of time, I get
responses back from people who want to join the argument."
He also gets texts from lobbyists.
"Occasionally, you'll see a lobbyist who has your number and they
are aware of your side of a position," Dorman said. "They may send
in talking points for you to use in your debate or send you a
hostile question that you can use."
Lobbyists, it seems, no longer need the lobby.
"I think a lot of them have gotten so use to technology that
texting is the next stage," Dorman said.
With the development of smart phones and the public's acceptance
of texting, lobbyists working the Oklahoma Legislature can place
themselves virtually on the floor of the state House or Senate via
their phones - despite rules saying otherwise. Nationwide, the
practice has become so widespread that it has political scientists
and some lawmakers worried.
"Texting, I would think, puts lobbyists right there on the
floor," said Jim Davis, a political science professor at Oklahoma
State University in Stillwater. "You could literally stand on the
floor and have your debate texted to you. Instead of being a
legislator, you'd simply be a mouthpiece."
Davis isn't the only one concerned.
In California, the state Assembly's new speaker, John Perez, said
lawmakers would no longer be allowed to trade text messages with
lobbyists while voting, debating or otherwise "doing the people's
"Californians expect us to pay full attention to the issues and
to each other," Perez said, in a story published by the San Jose
Mercury News. "They need not worry that special-interest lobbyists
are secretly sending messages of support or opposition to us while
The issue also has become a problem in Maine.
There, the House of Representatives is considering a rule that,
its sponsor said, "seeks to prevent the abuse of secret, instant
communications by lobbyists who closely monitor actions by
legislators in session."
"It's an effort to deal with a serious problem that will only get
worse if it's not dealt with now," said Maine Democratic state Rep.
Herbert Adams, the bill's sponsor.
Across the country, legislatures are grappling with the issue.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30
states have restricted the use of electronic devices, such as
pagers, cell phones and desktop printers in legislatures while two
states - Colorado and West Virginia - prohibit members from
receiving text messages during the legislative session.
"In some states the officials say they are concerned about
decorum," said Angela Andrews, an NCSL policy associate. "Other
states said they were concerned about secrecy. It just depends on
In Oklahoma, while lobbyists are prevented from being on the
floor of either legislative body when the Legislature is in session,
no rule or statute prevents a lobbyist from sending text messages to
a lawmaker during the session. …