Political Fight Surrounds Oklahoma's Open Records Act

Wednesday, February 25th 2015, 10:24 pm
By: News 9

Some lawmakers are working to make some public records more private, keeping them off limits to citizens.

But now, there's a road block that could keep that information open to everyone.

Less than a week after a House committee passed a bill to pretty much gut Oklahoma's Open Records Act, which included access to law enforcement videos, Senator David Holt essentially halted the proposal.

Holt has signed on as the Senate author of House Bill 1361 which now gives him Senate control.

“It undid what I did,” said Sen. David Holt.

It was sweeping legislation that would have put a loop hole in the Open Records Act rendering it, Holt said, completely useless.

“That excessive disruption clause - that affected the emails of public officials, that would affect the budgets of agencies, I mean that was every public record that was going to be subject to that,” said Holt.

The original bill, authored by Rep. Claudia Griffith would have undone recent progress made with the help of Senator Holt.

Last year, the legislature passed a bill authored by Holt that made dash cam and other videos available under the Open Records Act. At that time, Holt said there was little language about body cams.

“There are different issues, and I think it's worthwhile to talk about that,” said Holt.

“I think we have to be really careful about what we allow out,” said Rep. Mike Christian.

Christian, a retired state trooper, amended the original bill by Rep. Griffith because he said there are certain instances where video should not be released. He said the dash cam video which showed the moments before and after the death of Trooper Nicholas Dees on I-40 last month hit close to home.

“I'm not saying turn it off totally, but I think they should have a little more discretion and latitude on what they're going to release when it comes to public interest,” said Rep. Mike Christian.

Senator Holt said he wants to start from scratch. He will work with the House to create a bill that focuses specifically on body and dash cams, and does not gut the Open Records Act.