Sunlight Weekly Roundup: New open government law makes “great strides towards increasing transparency”

  • This week, a comprehensive overhaul of the Georgia’s open government laws unanimously passed the Senate. House Bill 397 will now go back to the House so members can agree on changes made by the Senate. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, one of the bill’s backers, maintains that it “makes great strides towards increasing transparency in Georgia.” Hollie G. Manheimer, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, points out, “We are optimistic that HB 397 will pass in its current form, and that the attorney general will begin as soon as possible to address an increased number of open government violations. Stronger open government laws mean greater transparency for Georgia citizens.” For the whole story, see Kathleen Baydala Joyner’s post on ATLAW.
  • California recently received a D-minus for government transparency. According to John Diaz, this low grade is mostly due to the state lacking a “checkbook” website that displays financial information online. Diaz maintains, “California, home of so much brilliance and innovation, should be ashamed that Texas and Kentucky lead the nation in using the tools of technology to make their government spending more transparent to their citizens. Even worse is that 35 other states scored higher than California in a recent analysis by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Perhaps most humiliating of all is that the technology that could have put California in the top tier in 2012 is not expected to be up and running until … 2017.” For his entire take, see his post on SF Gate.
  • In Kentucky, a bill increasing secrecy at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services died in a Senate committee only to be revived minutes later in the House of Representatives. Critics of the measure worry the bill will “sharply curtail public access to details of child-abuse deaths and serious injuries, were outraged, saying the bill gives the cabinet more power to withhold information.” David Thompson, executive director of the Kentucky Press Association opposes the bill. Calling it a “secrecy bill.” Media attorney Jon Fleischaker testified the Senate committee about concerns over the lack of transparency the bill has for cabinet oversight, even though supporters were pushing it as a transparency bill. For the entire story, see Mike Farell’s post on the Kentucky Open Government Blog.
  • According to a report by the State Integrity Investigation, Virginia has been ranked the fourth worst state regarding open government and anti-corruption laws and practices. The state earned a failing score of 55 and performed better than only Wyoming, South Dakota and Georgia. In his blog, Virginia  Senator Chap Petersen called the report “an example of the lamest, most superficial analysis.” For more information, see Nicole Trifone’s post on Fairfax City Patch.