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State transparency website evaluation

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Below is how we would like to see the statewide agencies report for their Ten-Point Transparency Checklist.

Below is a sample of the transparency checklist. If you would like to fill one of these out for your state do the following:

  1. Log in to your Sunshine Review Account. This will allow you to edit pages.
  2. Come to this article and press the edit tab at the top of the article. This will allow you to see the wiki coding for the article.
  3. Copy the information below into your state. Fill out {{Yes (Sunshine Review)}} or {{No (Sunshine Review)}} for the 10 transparency checkpoint. Once you have a total (ex. 3/10 or 7/10) to the heading of the checklist and type {{Rating#}}.
    1. The number in the rating section should be the number of government entities that "pass" the list.

More information

Below you will see different sections of the 10 point list spelled out in more detail. These sections define what qualifies as a "passing" grade for the checklist. A statewide office or agency must meet all of the requirements in order to get a passing grade for the checklist.

In these sections you can link to any information that is currently available at the government office or agency website.

  • For example, for the Budget section if only the current Budget is listed then place a link to it in that section. Then note that citizens are denied looking at past budgets in order to compare performance.
  • Also make sure to date when you fill out the section so that users know how up to date the list will be. You can do that by typing {{date|April 30, 2008}} at the beginning of the section.
  • If a url is available for a state website please link to it in that section.
  • If there is a volunteer that uses the Freedom of Information Act to collect the data we ask to make the government transparent please link to it in that section but do not give the state a passing grade. Passing grade are only if the government makes the information readily available--no exceptions.

Statewide checklist

Current checklists reflect our grading method for 2012. Below are the requirements that will be evaluated in January - February of 2013 when Sunshine Review raises the bar on state level government transparency.

These changes were decided by sending out a survey to over 100 organizations asking what they thought states should proactively disclose on their websites. Those who have collaborated with us on the project, and agreed to be published here, include:

Below is the topics that should be addressed for a statewide open government.

Grade2.pngD
Budget P
Partial.png
Usability P
Partial.png
Legislative P
Partial.png
Executive P
Partial.png
Ethics
{{{1}}}
Audits
{{{1}}}
Contracts P
Partial.png
Lobbying
{{{1}}}
Public records P
Partial.png
Compensation
{{{1}}}
State agency websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process
{{State transparency checklist |
 Rating                    = {{Rating4}} |
 Budget                    = {{partial}} |
 Usability                 = {{partial}} |
 Legislative         = {{partial}} |
 Executive           = {{partial}} |
 Ethics                    = {{yes}} |
 Audits                    = {{yes}} | 
 Contracts                 = {{partial}} |
 Lobbying                  = {{yes}} |
 Public records            = {{partial}} |
 Compensation                     = {{yes}} |
}}

Point breakdown

Point range Grade
100 A+
95-99 A
90-95 A-
85 - 89 B+
80 - 84 B
75-79 B-
70 - 74 C+
65-69 C
60 -64 C-
55-59 D+
50-54 D
45-49 D-
0-44 F

Budgets

Current requirements 2013 additions
The most current budget be available online. (1 pt) The proposed budget will be posted seven days prior to being voted on. (1 pt)
Budget will be archived and available for up to 3 years. (1 pt) Publish the Governor’s proposed budget. (1 pt)
All appropriations bills posted online as least one week before being voted on. (1 pt) Publish the enacted budget. (1 pt)
Graphs available that show spending and revenue over time. (1 pt) Publish quarterly and annual reports. (10 pts)
Check register available. (1 pt) Publish reports regarding tax expenditures. (1 pt)
SR will review more than the state website when looking for these documents. However the sites will still be run by government agencies or officials, we will not include websites from non-profits or other organizations.

Usability

Current requirements 2013 additions
Consistent use of web domains. (1 pt) Databases will be downloadable. (1 pt)
Website will have a functional internal search. (1 pt) All PDFs, financial data, and legislation will be searchable or be presented in a drilldown database format. (2 pt)
Information will ideally be found in six clicks or less. (1 pt)
Information will be presented in a clear and concise manner, with website being written in “plain english” instead of legal jargon. (1 pt)
Will have a consistent and easy-to-use interface, especially in regards to how the website is navigated and information organized. (1 pt)

Public officials

Current requirements 2013 additions
Contact information, including e-mails, is available for all elected officials. E-mails can be written out to deflect spam, but a personal email must be listed. (2 pt) Salaries and pension benefits are disclosed for elected officials. (2 pt)
Terms of office and date of next election are posted online. (1 pt) Sunshine Review will separate the review for the executive and legislative branches.
Voting records are available. (2 pt) This will be replacing Sunshine Review’s “administrative officials” section.
Party affiliation is disclosed. (1 pt)
Conflict of interest agreements are disclosed online. (1 pt)
Committee appointments are online. (1 pt)

Ethics

Current requirements 2013 additions
Must have an ethics commission and guidelines for ethical behavior of officials. (3 pt) None.
Process for reporting ethics violation is available online. (3 pt)
Results of ethics investigations are posted online. (4 pt)

Audits

Current requirements 2013 additions
Information about regular audits is available. (2 pt) None.
Audit results for 3 years or more are posted online. (4 pt)
Schedule for audits is posted online. (2 pt)
Performance audits are posted online. (2 pt)

Contracts

Current requirements 2013 additions
Rules governing contracts will be posted online. (2 pt) Complete statements for awarded contracts will be disclosed. (6 pt)
Bids and contracts for purchases over $10,000 will be posted online. (2 pt)

Lobbying

Current requirements 2013 additions
Disclosure of state-paid lobbying activity. (2 pt) Executive and Legislative lobbying recorded. (1 pt)
Database of registered lobbyists. (1 pt) Lobbying database will specify lobbyist, company, client, agency being lobbied, purpose of lobbying. (2 pt)
Agency lobbying contracts posted online. (2 pt)
All grants given to non-profit organizations will be posted online. The reason for the grant will also be disclosed, along with the contact for organization responsible for oversight. (2 pt)

Public records

Current requirements 2013 additions
Contact information, including e-mails, for the Public Information Officer for every state agency and department in one central location. (2 pt) Citizens be able to request public records online, either by e-mail or an online submission form. (1 pt)
Information regarding public information violations and how to pursue them will be posted online. (1 pt)
Executive sessions and appropriation meetings will be broadcast online and archived. (2 pt)
At least 24 hours is given notice online before a public meeting is held. (2 pt)
Annual compliance surveys will be posted online that measure the number of FOIA requests submitted, number fulfilled, average time for compliance, and reasons for denials. (2 pt)

Compensation

Current requirements 2013 additions
Sunshine Review will replace the “taxes” section with “total compensation.” (10 pts)
Each department will list the cost of salaries and benefits.

Problems with your state's grade:

If you find that any of the information that is posted on your state's website is false, not up-to-date, or has been taken down please e-mail us at sunshine@ballotpedia.org and let us know. We'll retract the point from the state's score, and lower its transparency score.

However, we do not take away points due to wasteful spending, unanswered FOIA requests, or other "offline" activities—our scores are based solely on the state's website. We do hope that you'll report on these other instances by adding additional information to your state's page, like we have in Houston Independent School District, Texas.