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State transparency checklist (2008-2012)

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This page outlines the specific criteria used to evaluate the transparency of state agency websites. Specifically, the criteria outlined below is used to evaluate disclosure of government data from 2008 to 2012.

State agency evaluations is a part of a Sunshine Review transparency project which evaluates city, county, school district and state agency websites based on website transparency features.

Ranking state transparency

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

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Budget Y
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Usability N
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Elected Officials Y
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Administrative Officials Y
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Ethics N
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Audits N
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Contracts Y
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Lobbying Y
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Public records Y
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Taxes Y
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Transparency grading process

Budget

To receive a point for the budget, state governments must meet the following criteria:

  • All budgets, current and historic, available online.
  • All appropriations bills posted online at least one week before a vote.
  • Graphs showing spending and revenue over time.
  • Check register. Must include:
  1. The amount of the payment
  2. Date
  3. Check number
  4. To whom the payment was made (including the address)
  5. What it was for
  6. Budgetary authority for the expenditure
  7. Functional expenditure category
  8. Sources of funds
  9. Links to the relevant contracts under which the payment was made

Usability

The following conditions must be met to receive a point at the state level.

  • Consistent use of website domains.
  • Searchable.
  • Present the information to the user in a clear and concise way. Websites are written in "plain English" instead of legal jargon.
  • Has a consistent and easy-to-understand user interface. Especially in regards to how the website is navigated and content is organized.
  • Does not require tedious plug-in downloads.

Elected officials

The following conditions must be met to receive a point:

  • Contact information for all elected officials.
  • Terms of office and date of next election.
  • Voting record.
  • Voter registration (Party Registration).
  • Conflict of interest agreement (most states require employees to disclose potential conflicts of interest but they don't necessarily make the forms available).
  • Committee appointments.

Administrative officials

The following conditions must be met to receive a point:

  • Contact information for all appointed and elected administrators.
  • Terms of office.
  • Governing boards and by laws for agencies.
  • Voter registration.
  • Conflict of interest agreement (most states require employees to disclose potential conflicts of interest but they don't necessarily make the forms available.

Ethics

The following conditions must be met to receive a point:

  • Must have an ethics commission and guidelines for ethical behavior of officials
  • Process for reporting ethics violations available on web site.
  • Investigations and results of investigations posted

Audits (Financial/Performance)

The following conditions must be met to receive a point:

  • Regular audits of state agencies and departments, including the Governor and the Assembly.
  • Audit results posted online.
  • Scheduled financial audits posted online.
  • Performance audits for state programs.

Contracts

The following conditions must be met to receive a point:

  • Rules governing contracts posted online.
  • Bids and contracts for purchases over $10,000 must be posted online.
  • Vendor campaign contributions posted with contract.

Lobbying/Advocacy

The following conditions must be met to receive a point:

  • Disclosure of state-paid lobbying activity.
  • Database of registered lobbyists.
  • Agency lobbying contracts posted online.
  • All grants given to non-profit organizations with reason for the grant and a contact in the organization responsible for oversight.

FOIA

The following conditions must be met to receive a point:

  • FOIA contact for every state agency/department in one central location.
  • Department/Agency FOIA officer posted on Department homepage.
  • Annual compliance survey performed measuring the number of FOIAs submitted, number fulfilled, average time for compliance and reasons for denials.

Taxes

The following conditions must be met to receive a point:

  • Central location for all tax information, including state "fees" such as drivers' licenses.
  • Tax documents for all elected officials.
  • Each agency discloses all sources of revenue.

Requesting an evaluation

Transparency evaluations are conducted upon request. Please email us to request an evaluation. Ballotpedia does not conduct comprehensive, annual evaluations for all municipalities or school districts.

In your request please include the following:

  • a link to the website, and
  • links to where the information (see checklist parameters) that will be evaluated can be found on the website.

Comments or questions

If you find that any of the information that is posted on your government entity's website is false, not up-to-date, or has been taken down please send an email to let us know. We will review the information and evaluate if the government entity's score needs to be adjusted.

See also

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