OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma lawmaker has said he will likely reintroduce legislation pushing for transparency over bill language.
Last session, Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City filed a bill that would require lawmakers to disclose where they got the language for their bill.
“So, for example, a lot of model legislation is from ALEC. So, it require people to say this is a piece of ALEC legislation,” Walke said. “Most constituents, I think, think that their legislators are out there proposing bills for their best interest, and the reality is, is that a lot of those bills – I don’t know that most of them – are just model legislation from other states.”
‘ALEC,’ the American Legislative Exchange Council, is comprised of nearly one-quarter of the country’s state legislators and stakeholders across the policy spectrum, their website states. The organization believes in the principles of limited government and free markets.
Walke’s bill did not receive a committee hearing last year, but it’s something he told News 4 that he would like to bring up again in the future.
A recent joint investigation by USA Today, the Arizona Republic and Center for Public Integrity looked into “model” bills written by corporations, industry groups and think tanks. They examined nearly 1 million bills across the United States and found at least 10,000 bills that were copied from model legislation in the past eight years.
More than 2,100 of those bills were signed into law, the investigation found.
“The Uniform Law Commission has been around for over 100 years writing models. The one that people may have heard the uniform commercial code, where states have an interest in having laws that align with each other,” said Trent England with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. “It’s the same thing for thing for interstate compacts where states have to pass laws that are exactly the same, so there’s just nothing new going here.”
England, executive vice president of the OCPA, said there are many laws in place right now in Oklahoma that were modeled after other states.
“Whether it’s modernizing our alcohol laws, legalizing medical marijuana, criminal justice reform,” he said. “Always, we should make sure that a bill works with Oklahoma law, and so sometimes you can just take exactly what somebody else did and it will work. Often times, you have to make some changes but, either way, you’re basically importing all of this expertise and all of this experience into our lawmaking process. I mean, it’s a big win for Oklahoma.”
England said his concern with Walke’s proposal is it could be create bias over bills.
“A lot of legislators would say, oh, I don’t even have to read that. I know it’s a bad idea, because it comes from somebody I don’t like. That’s what we want to avoid,” he said. “I really worry about the debate getting shifted off into, well… we don’t want to do that because that’s the law in California, and we don’t like California. Or, we don’t want to do that because this one special interest group takes a position that we don’t like on something else.”
Responding to that criticism, Walke said bills need to be voted on substance.
“If your bill is good, then it doesn’t matter what the bias is,” he said. “Our economy and our culture in Oklahoma is so much more diverse and different than other states, that it’s not fair to just take model legislation from another state and just slap it down here in Oklahoma and say, well, that’s good enough.”
He said he will need to tweak his bill from last year to improve precision before presenting it again, but it will have the same intent.