The Edmond Sun

Our View

May 23, 2011

Bad bill goes by the wayside

EDMOND — Much is often written about new legislation that is approved and signed by the governor, but sometimes writing about bills that failed is just as important. One such piece of legislation this session was House Bill 1559, which sought to expand the attorney-client privilege for public bodies and their attorneys.

The Oklahoma Press Association and others opposed HB 1559 as bad public policy. They argued that a citizen’s right to ensure corruption does not occur behind closed doors should remain intact through the courts.

Much of the House of Representatives must have thought so as well since the measure failed 64-35. Only one member of the Edmond delegation voted for the measure — Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond. The other four representatives voted against it, helping defeat the legislation.

One of the biggest problems with HB 1559 is that it is poorly worded and its intent is confusing. In fact, the section of exemptions it tries to change could have potentially negative consequences for law enforcement in matters going before a grand jury. There is no requirement in the changes that would force a grand jury to seal sensitive information. So if a grand jury heard information about undercover officers’ work and did not seal that testimony, then the grand jury potentially could expose this information to the public instead of protecting it.

So if the intent of the legislation was to keep sensitive information even more secret than it is now, we believe the attempt at crafting that legislation was poorly conceived. But more importantly we question the bill’s backers as to why they believe public bodies need even more power than they have now.

If any future legislatures have the opportunity to vote on this type of change, we hope that the need for expanding attorney-client privilege for public bodies will be clearly explained and that the legislation will not have unintended consequences as this one seemed to have in it.

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