Sunlight Weekly Round-up: Unfunded mandates and open government


According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA) was set up to respond to concerns that the federal government was imposing enforceable duties on other levels of government without carefully considering the costs of these duties.  As a result, mandates such as the open meeting Act mandate that requires all meetings of the legislature body of a local agency to be open and public and all persons to be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislature body, can go unfunded if a state considers them costly. The debate now is whether an unfunded mandate means that it should be suspended.  Robert Wechsler does not think so. Here is why…

  • Public meetings in California are threatened after the legislature suspended funding for local government’s compliance with open meetings laws this month. Robert Wechsler, the director of research at City Ethics, deconstructs the consequences of this suspension and explains the importance of unfunded mandates and how they affect the open meeting compliance.  He recommends that the state makes more requirements of local government to create stronger ethics programs and foster sustained funding. More on the City Ethics blog
  • When it comes to money in politics, David Morrison, Associate Director of Illinois Campaign for Political Reform does not mince words. He believes that campaign finance disclosure is crucial because it makes the public aware of possible conflict of interest where a donor may have vested interest in a political candidate. Take a look at how he criticizes Illinois’ long acceptance of political donations from corporations without full disclosure at the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
  • Open government might become part of North Carolina’s constitution. While “keeping a watchful eye on government and politics in the Cape Fear Region” Pat Gannon blogs that a sunshine amendment to a senate bill will make government and local meetings open to the public and give them access to public records. Read how State Sen. Thom Goolsby’s sponsored bill is  receiving a nod from the North Carolina Press Association on the Cape Fear Watchdogs.
  • A new bill sponsored by Governor Scott Walker is about to leave residents in Wisconsin without public transportation.  The SB 11 bill, which will affect collective bargaining for public employees will also lead to an end of the 47 million in federal mass transit that the state receives in aid. In her “My vacation day for transit and standing up for what I believe in”, Nikki V is seeking for a solution to the budget repair bill. Take a look at how she is making the call for legislatures to find a better answer on CurlyGirl.
  • Senator Tanya Schuitmaker has introduced a bill that will require Michigan to post online all government-related information including contracts and grants. Former state representative Jack Hoogendyk, now the director of Citizens’ Alliance for Life and Liberty, reviews transparency legislation in other states and notes that the cost of creating searchable websites has been the recurring concern even when it has been discovered that the actual cost is far less than what was predicted. More of his blog on Core Principles.