House begins new gov. transparency initiative; REAL ID deadline extended
By Brad Boles
It’s been a very busy past month traveling around the district meeting with constituents, attending events within the district and working on future legislation. The 2020 session will be here before we know it! I wanted to take time to give a quick update on some important topics going on at the Capitol.
On Friday, Speaker Charles McCall announced a new initiative to build off of greater oversight and transparency efforts by the House over the past three years. Through this new initiative, House committees are assigned to regularly monitor the governing boards of more than three dozen state agencies so legislators can be better informed on the function of each board and their current concerns.
This may involve House members sitting in on boards’ executive sessions. Under the Open Meeting Act, agency governing boards can remove the public from their meetings to hold executive sessions where they must discuss matters, such as employment or legal actions, where disclosure of information could violate state or federal law. However, the act also says that state legislators who serve on a committee related to the board may attend these executive session meetings, and there may be some legislators who choose to do so.
There are currently nearly 200 state governing boards, all with varied duties and areas of expertise. Several of my colleagues in the House have already begun this effort, and many more will attend upcoming meetings of the three dozen agencies we will begin watching.
As Chair of County & Municipal Government Committee, I’ll begin working closer with the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority. Either I or one of my fellow committee members will attend each of their meetings so we are updated on issues they’re facing and can receive information on a topic directly from them.
You can’t be at every single meeting for these nearly 200 boards, but House members can, and this initiative will keep us more informed on the topics that matter most so we can become more effective lawmakers and representatives of the people.
Earlier this month, REAL ID made news headlines across the state regarding the federal deadline. With our Oct. 10 extension deadline expiring, I had numerous constituents contact me with concerns about traveling or continuing access to federal buildings or U.S. military bases. Thankfully, Oklahoma received an extension to become REAL ID compliant by Sept. 18, 2020.
In 2005, the U.S. Congress passed the REAL ID Act to make driver’s licenses more difficult to forge after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The act requires additional measures to ensure a person is whom they claim to be. However, in 2007, Oklahomans raised privacy concerns about the information gathered and kept on the IDs. After these concerns were addressed, Oklahoma began the process in 2017 to become REAL ID compliant. Without this latest extension, Oklahoma residents would need to provide other acceptable forms of identification to fly commercially or to enter federal facilities.
Gov. Stitt said that the Dept. of Public Safety will start issuing the updated IDs beginning in April. DPS should begin releasing more information in the near future on what documents will be needed to process the REAL ID request and locations that an ID can be obtained. Public Safety Commissioner John Scully said it’s a priority to make the process as easy as possible.
This extension is a relief for many Oklahomans who travel regularly or work in federal buildings or on military bases. I’m thankful the governor and leadership at DPS worked to secure this deadline and continue to work to get Oklahoman in full compliance ahead of the new deadline.
I encourage my constituents to stay engaged and reach out to me with your opinions of certain bills or of a particular issue. As your state representative, it’s my job to be your voice at the State Capitol and I want to represent you and District 51 well.