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Birthday girl

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While a state senator is vigorously fighting to keep government employees' date of births private, apparently the fight isn't there for the senator's colleagues.

Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, is author of a bill exempting birth dates of government employees from the open records act. The bill comes after a fierce battle emerged between local media and public officials over the release of the dates.

The battle has moved into the legal arena, with a district judge issuing a temporary restraining order. Several media outlets are joining in opposition to the state employees union.

Leftwich believes a date of birth is private information and should not be subject to public release. News organizations argue that birth dates are vital to make certain they have identified the correct person in stories. If a John Smith is arrested for raping a child, reporters don't want to confuse him with a John Smith who works in the governor's office. Since Social Security numbers are deemed private by law, dates of birth are the best means to verify the correct John Smith.

During a Senate session last week, one senator was called out and recognized in front of his fellow legislators. Why? Because it was his birthday! Sens. Joe Sweeden, D-Pawhuska, and Mike Johnson, R-Kingfisher, were given a nice round of applause as the Senate president stated aloud for the chamber, the press and the world (if the world watches the live video Internet stream) that it was their birthday.

And, yes, Sen. Leftwich applauded and smiled as well. Apparently, it's not cool to have a birthday list for government workers, but, hey, for her fellow senators whom she works with on passing laws for the state, their arrival dates on Earth are fair game.

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