Local Sunlight

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Every week I climb into the depths of the local political blogosphere to find the Sunlight. I use this series to highlight local blogs that do a great job of covering local, state, and congressional political news.  This week I have highlights from Virginia, Maryland, Delaware

In Virgina, Shaun Kenney writes about Virginia part time legislature and the conflict of interest that grows from it.  Virginia has a part time legislature which creates a lot of examples of conflict of interest, for instance, “Delegate Jennifer McClellan continues to hold her seat despite her professional employment as a lobbyist for Verizon.”  This post was in response to Waldo Jaquith‘s post about  a Virginia legislator who basically wrote himself an earmark- “Hamilton had Old Dominion University hire him as a consultant, using funding he’d allocate from the state budget.”  Jaquith suggests that Virginia should make their state legislature full time and pay their lawmakers more.  Shaun counters that more time and money won’t make lawmakers more ethical, so he suggests a shorter legislative session with no pay.  For the several state legislatures that are part time (Montana’s meets once every 2 years for example) this is an important discussion.  The question of  what kind of lawmaker you want to represent you is one of the defining debates of any republic. 

In Maryland, Annapolis Politics has a post about analyzing campaign finance reports.  “You don’t really need intelligence–what you really need is time.and a cynical attitude.”  It’s an excellent summary of what to look at:  Key notes of information: amount of donation, type of donor, location of donor, amount of money raised, and ending cash on hand.

Kilroys Delaware has a post about school district transparency new legislation would require school districts to post, on their Web site, a check register of every check they write and update the register every three months.  This is a great first step for school district budget transparency.  Even though three months is pretty decent disclosure time schedule, they should really aim for real time disclosure, since checks are all done electronically real time shouldn’t be a technical problem.

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  • great post, thanks

  • Thank you for mentioning Kilroy’s Delaware. I agree re: real time disclosure.

    We are on the move. HB 119 was signed by the governor and not only does it require online checkbooks but it also require school districts to do the following:
    http://legis.delaware.gov/LIS/lis145.nsf/vwLegislation/HB+119/$file/legis.html?open

    Ҥ1508. Citizen Oversight of District Finances.

    The Department of Education shall promulgate regulations by November 1, 2009 establishing procedures for appointment of citizen budget oversight committees for each of the public school districts and charter schools. These committees shall have full access either electronically or in hard copy format to all financial documents and financial information in the possession of the school districts they are assigned to oversee, with redactions permitted only to protect confidential personal information regarding students or employees. Oversight committees shall have representation from parents, educators, and taxpayers residing in each of the public school districts, and shall contain at least two members with formal educational or vocational backgrounds amenable to oversight of school district financial statements. The Department of Education shall provide training to committee members. The Department shall also promulgate regulations by November 1, 2009 dictating uniformity and transparency in the financial recording and bookkeeping practices of the school districts and charter schools.

    The school district I live in Red Clay has a community finanical review committee established two years ago in which I was a founding memmber and the person who made to public request for the district to form.

    I left the committee because the district refused to expenditure reports on the website. However after calling them out on a lie more information is now on lines such as http://www.redclay.k12.de.us/boardcfrc0809/reports0809.shtml
    Red Clay now provides more meaningful finanical data in the state and way more than the average person can comprehend.

    We down to keeping pressure on the district to making responsible finanical policies.

    Also, I was able to get support for passage of HB 76 which modified the School Board Memeber’s Oath of Office statewide. Board members now in addition to affirming their support to the U.S. Constitution and Delaware Constitution they now must also affirm their support to the laws of Delaware governing public education which are under Title 14 of the state code.
    http://legis.delaware.gov/LIS/LIS145.NSF/vwLegislation/HB+76?Opendocument

    My goal for 2010 is to push for legislation requiring all proposed legislation dealing with public education had the funding sources noted in the legislation prior to a vote. In 2001 I exposed the fact the state legislators were not complying with Title 14, Chapter 2, Subchapter I section 207 which required an education impact study to be performed prior to a vote that did included notation of funding sources. It was tactfully repealed at the last week of legislative session 2002.

    It’s hard to believe Delaware the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution aka the state that started a nation has such closed government.

    Delaware has a population of about 870,000 people and being so small our legislators have no place to hide. The failures of Delaware government is a direct result of the people not standing up. The people are the failures.

    John Allison
    Aka Kilroy

  • Ben

    This is a cool idea. Nice of you to highlight blogs like this.