Senate Defeats Electronic Record Access Plan

Article excerpt

By Lou Anne Wolfe

Journal Record Staff Reporter

A bill to centralize state records for electronic access was voted down 29-17 Wednesday in the Oklahoma Senate.

House Bill 1271 by Rep. Danny Williams, D-Seminole, and Sen. Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee, would have created an Oklahoma Information Network, governed by a commission and administered by a private contractor.

Robinson lodged a reconsideration motion on his bill, which means he has three days to bring it up for another vote.

Senators who debated against the bill said it would be too easy to get information on citizens and use it for profit. Robinson said the system only would contain information already in the public domain. He said it would make it faster and easier to access government information.

One group which would use the system would be insurance agents, who obtain motor vehicle records for the people they insure, he said.

Opponents also worried about individual privacy, and said it would be a moneymaking enterprise for the network managing firm.

A nine-member Oklahoma Information Network Commission would have overseen the operation. Members would have been the secretary of state, state finance director, two state agency heads appointed by the governor, one member of the Oklahoma Bar Association and one librarian, appointed by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries Board.

Robinson said the commission would control the cost of accessing the information network "and make it accessible and affordable to the public to use. The marketplace would control `obscene' profits," he said. The commission would establish the rates the contractor could charge, he said.

State government information in Kansas and New Mexico is on this kind of system, Robinson said. Users are charged 40 or 50 cents per minute for a record search, and then the customary cost of the record they request, he said.

Sen. Gene Stipe, D-McAlester, was a co-author of House Bill 1271 but he withdrew his name from the bill Wednesday.

"I signed on as a co-author because I thought we were doing something to further education," he said. "This deal here, though, is frightening to say the least."

The bill had its origin in a special committee that studied access to "machine-readable" records prior to this year's legislative session.

Sen. Jerry Pierce, R-Bartlesville, said not enough consideration was given to citizens' privacy rights. …