Wednesday, February 26, 2020

House committee passes bill to bring transparency on state lawsuits


O’Donnell Passes Bill  to Bring Greater Transparency on State Lawsuits

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Terry O’Donnell (R-Catoosa) yesterday saw advancement of a bill that would bring greater transparency to the process by which the state hires and pays for outside attorneys or legal agencies to represent its interests.

House Bill 3390 would require the state to make available to the public a list of attorneys and firms furnishing legal services along with a schedule of fees paid. The bill also caps the fees the state would pay to $1,000 per hour or a scale from 2% to 15% depending on the amount recovered from $20 million to less than $10 million with the state payment not to exceed $10 million. Any case that is believed to cost more than $1 million will need to be first submitted to the Legislative Oversight Committee overseeing the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT).

The bill passed in the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 15-0.

“The goal of this measure is to bring transparency to state lawsuits,” O’Donnell said. “A more transparent bidding process is good for everybody in the state.”

HB 3390 also specifies that past or present relationships between legal counsel and the state be disclosed when contracts are proposed and that the reasons for hiring outside counsel be explained to the public. The bill further requires that before entering into a contract for legal representation with private attorneys or firms, an official of the executive branch must receive proposals for three qualified private attorneys or firms with the contract being based on the most economical and the service judged to be in the best interest of the state.

O’Donnell said the bill is still a work in progress and may see further amendments before it is brought to the House floor.

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