House Committee approves bill exempting Corporation Commission from Public Meetings Act



A House bill to allow Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners to meet and discuss certain issues without declaring a public meeting under Oklahoma’s Open Meetings Act won unanimous support recently in a state House Committee.

Approval came after the sponsoring legislator made some claims that appeared to be inaccurate regarding support from commissioners and their inability to meet publicly.

Members did not show any concern about a lack of transparency or a need to put the state’s utility monopolies under a greater spotlight as the Commission handles millions of dollars in rate requests.

Rep. Tammy Townley’s HB2367 received support of 13 members of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Ardmore legislator told committee members she had been asked by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to support the measure and said it had the support of the Oklahoma Press Association.

She used the term Corporation Commission yet at least one commissioner and possibly two did not support the measure.

The bill would “exempt” commissioners from holding a public meeting to discuss certain clarified issues such as scheduling of agenda items, internal processes, staffing needs, public and media statements, interviewing potential employees or assessing performance reviews and duties of the Director of Administration and Division Directors.

“They can’t even be at a convention together and cannot be in the room together at the convention,” complained Townley as she explained the bill. “There’s all kinds of issues.”

Again, her claim could be construed as misleading because the three corporation commissioners can and have attended conferences together. Just last week, all three traveled to Washington D.C. for a nationa meeting of NARUC, the National Association of Regulatory Utiliity Commissioners. At least two attended a similar NARUC meeting last year in California.

Still, Rep. Townley called the current public meetings rules and restrictions on the commissioners “more oppressive than helpful” and said her bill would be helpful to the commissioners.

“Because now you have a game of telephone going on—we’re having grade school antics for one of our most powerful entities.” She called it a pilot program, adding, “if it works–that’s great–maybe it can go into other entities later on.”

She then added, “We don’t want it filtering over into other entities—we don’t want it going any further right now.” Her bill only applies to the 3-member Corporation Commission.

But would she be willing to explore allowing other 3-member agencies to also win exemption from the state law?

“Uhhh–maybe–I’m not gonna say no, but uh,not at this time. Not gonna say no, but I don’t want it to go any further, to be honest.

She also called it the “most watched pilot bill” in the legislature this year before it received unanimous support from those on the Committee.

A House fiscal impact statement showed:

“According to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (Corp. Comm.) this measure will not create any fiscal impact for the agency. If anything, it may help create some efficiencies within
Corp. Comm. as it will help cut down on the number of meetings and allow issues to be worked through more quickly. Given this information, there is no fiscal impact to the State.”

As OK Energy Today reported earlier in the week, a similar bill in the Kansas legislature that was focused only on the Kansas Corporation Commission was killed in the House. The bill was voted down after one legislator called it a “dangerous precedent” and argued that what the KCC does in regulating monopolies “deserves more, not less transparency.”

Such a lack of transparency under the Oklahoma bill was not a topic or issue raised by the members of the Oklahoma Committee.

Mark Thomas with the Oklahoma Press Association said negotiations are underway to include a sunset clause of June 30, 2026 while the effective date of the bill, if passed, is Nov. 1, 2024.

” The sunset clause would give some comfort level to legislators that this new ability for commissioners to speak about the limited set of subjects with the enhanced reporting provision would end unless reauthorized by the legislature.   Sunset clauses are generally used as a backstop to bad behavior,” said Thomas in an email exchange with OK Energy Today.

“If the commissioners abuse this new legislative authority as outlined in statute it can be amended in 2025 session, or the 2026 session, or simply go away unless the legislature extends or removes the sunset.  Several people believe a sunset clause would be a valuable amendment to the legislation.”


                     Energy and Natural Resources Committee


    HB2367                           Corporation Commission; creating the Cor

    Townley                          poration Commission Efficiency Act; effe

                                     ctive date.


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