Evaluation of Alaska state website

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Alaska.gov is the website for the state of Alaska.

Website evaluation

Grade2.pngD
Budget P
Partial.png
Usability
{{{1}}}
Legislative P
Partial.png
Executive P
Partial.png
Ethics
{{{1}}}
Audits
{{{1}}}
Contracts P
Partial.png
Lobbying P
Partial.png
Public records P
Partial.png
Compensation
{{{1}}}
State agency websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

This website was reviewed on an unknown date.

The good

  • Budget
    • The most current budget is listed along with archived budgets for 14 years.[1]
    • Proposed, amended, enacted budgets are all available.
    • Check register available with reports regarding tax expenditures.[2]
  • Legislative Public Officials
    • Contact information, including e-mails, is available for all elected officials.[3]
    • Party affiliation is disclosed.
    • Committee appointments are online.
    • Roll call votes are online.
  • Executive Public Officials
    • Cabinet members are listed with contact information.[4]
  • Ethics
    • Must have an ethics commission and guidelines for ethical behavior of officials.[5]
    • Process for reporting ethics violation is available online.[6]
  • Audits
    • Information about regular audits is available.[7]
    • Audit results posted online.
    • Schedule for audits is posted online.
    • Performance audits are posted.[8]
  • Contracts
    • Rules governing contracts are posted online.[9]
    • Bids and contracts for purchases over $10,000 are posted online.
    • Complete statements for awarded contracts are disclosed.
    • Union contracts are posted.[10]
  • Public records
    • At least 24 hours is given notice online before a public meeting is held.[11]
  • Lobbying
    • Database of registered lobbyists.[12]
    • Lobbying database will specify lobbyist, company, client, agency being lobbied, purpose of lobbying.
    • All grants given to non-profit organizations are posted online. The reason for the grant will also be disclosed.[13]
  • Usability
    • Site is consistent in use of web domains.
    • Internal search function is useful.
    • Information can be found in six clicks or less.
    • Information is presented in a clear and concise manner, with website written in “plain english” instead of legal jargon.
    • Website has a consistent and easy-to-use interface.
    • Databases are downloadable as PDFs.
    • All PDFs, financial data, and legislation are searchable.
  • Compensation
    • Compensation and travel records are available for executive positions.[14]
    • Total cost of employee salaries and benefits is posted for each department in budget documents.

The bad

  • Executive Public Officials
    • Salaries and benefits are not provided.
  • Legislative Public Officials
    • Salaries and pension benefits are not disclosed for elected officials.
    • Conflict of interests forms are not online.
    • Terms of office and date of next election are posted online.
  • Lobbying
    • Disclosure of state-paid lobbying activity is not available.
    • Agency lobbying contracts are not posted online.
    • All grants given to non-profit organizations are posted online, but the contact for organization responsible for oversight it not available.
    • Executive and Legislative lobbying is not recorded.
  • Budget
    • Graphs are not available that show spending and revenue over time.
    • No evidence that the most recent budget was posted online seven days prior to be voted on.
    • Appropriations bills need to be posted online at least one week before being voted on.
  • Public Records
    • Annual compliance surveys are not posted online that measure the number of FOIA requests submitted, number fulfilled, average time for compliance, and reasons for denials.
    • Contact information, including e-mails, for the Public Information Officer for every state agency and department is not in a central location.
    • Citizens be able to request public records online, either by e-mail or an online submission form.
    • Executive sessions and appropriation meetings are not broadcast online and archived.
    • Information regarding public information violations and how to pursue them are not online.
  • Ethics
    • Results of ethics investigations are not posted online.

U.S. PIRG rating

The U.S. PIRG rated the state website a "D-" on providing online access to government spending data, with a score of 49 out of 100.[15]

The scorecard that U.S. PIRG uses has 13 items and focuses on a separate state website that is searchable at the checkbook level. Sunshine Review, on the other hand, focuses on the availability of separate spending-related items; they do not need to be in a central database.

Item Possible points Notes
Checkbook-level website 30 Detailed expenditure information, including individual payments made to vendors.
Search by vendor 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by contractor or vendor name.
Search by keyword of activity 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by type of service or item purchased, category, or government fund.
Search by agency or departments 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by branch of government.
Contract or summary information 10 A copy of the contract or detailed summary information is included for the expenditures.
Historical expenditures 5 Checkbook-level expenditure data from previous fiscal years.
Grants and economic development incentives information 10 Awardee-specific grants and/or economic development incentives are included in the checkbook tool or elsewhere with specific award amounts.
Downloadable 3 Information can be downloaded for data analysis.
Tax expenditure reports 10 The state's tax expenditure report is linked on the website.
Off-budget agencies 2 Expenditures from quasi-public agencies are included on the website.
City and county budgets 2 Financial information for some local governments is accessible.
ARRA Funding 2 A link is provided to the state's website that tracks funding related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Feedback 2 Website users are capable and encouraged to give feedback about the site.

There are several similarities between the checklists. For both checklists, the searchability of information factors in to how usability is rated. Both checklists have an item relating to contracts, tax information, and the budget. The U.S. PIRG requires information for quasi public entities; Sunshine Review requires information on lobbying, which includes quasi public entities' lobbying activity.

Unlike the Sunshine Review checklist with each check worth one point, different items on the U.S. PIRG checklist merit more or fewer points, depending on the item.

State Integrity Investigation

The 2012 State Integrity Investigation graded state ethics laws according to an "Integrity Index." The index was created by researching 330 "Integrity Indicators" across 14 categories of state government. The report assigned grades based on what laws are on the books, and whether or not they were effectively enforced. The report was a project of The Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.[16]

Alaska received an overall grade of D+, or 68%. It ranked 27 out of the 50 states.[17]

Category Grade
Public Access to Information F
Political Financing C+
Executive Accountability C-
Legislative Accountability C-
Judicial Accountability C+
State Budget Processes F
State Civil Service Management D-
Procurement C
Internal Auditing C+
Lobbying Disclosure C
State Pension Fund Management F
Ethics Enforcement Agencies C-
State Insurance Commissions C-
Redistricting F

Resources

Resource Run by Includes
Checkbook Online State of Alaska State spending
Open Government Initiative Alaska Policy Forum Contracts, collective bargaining agreements
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in State Politics Campaign contributions

Alaska Check Register Online

The Alaska Check Register is an online database of state expenditures that was launched in February 2008. Stating, "Alaskans deserve open, transparent government," Governor Sarah Palin announced that all state expenditures over $1,000 would be available online. It is available at the Alaska Department of Administration website, Division of Finance.

Anyone is able to go to the site and browse the state's check register in both pdf and excel formats, with information organized by department, payee, and type of expense. The first version did not include search capabilities, but plans were proposed to expand it. The site includes information on every payee that received over $1,000, including their name, location, and what the payment was for. Information that may result in issues of confidentiality, such as employee salaries, has not been posted, but they are attempting to figure a solution to this.[18][19]

Alaska State Legislature

See also: Alaska Legislature

The Alaska State Legislature website offers a simple layout that provides for easy navigation. The site includes search tools for finding filed legislation, as well as information about the state's House, Senate and session laws.[20]

Each state Senator and Representative is listed with additional details including contact information, residency, occupation, education, political career and interests. However, profiles do not include links to legislation filed or supported by each legislator.[21][22]

However, for filed bills, visitors to the site can use the search tool to search either by keyword or bill number. Additionally the state legislature website divides bills by: those awaiting action, governor's vetoes, passed legislation, bills in committee, sponsor summary, requestor summary and subject summary.[23]

Transparency legislation

See also: Alaska transparency legislation

2009

  • House Bill 42[24] , proposed by Rep. Bob Lynn, would establish a Legislative Study Group to prepare a report on the possibility of creating an immediate online state political campaign reporting system. Lynn said: "It's past time to bring political campaign disclosure into the 21st century."[25]

2008

  • Alaska Check Register Online includes state payment information for expenditures over $1,000. The checkbook was launched in February 2008. The first version did not include search capabilities, but plans were proposed to expand it. The site includes information on every payee that received over $1,000, including their name, location, and what the payment was for. Information that may result in issues of confidentiality, such as employee salaries, has not been posted, but they are attempting to figure a solution to this.[19]

Salaries

See also: Alaska state government salary

According to 2008 Census data, the state of Alaska and local governments in the state employed a total of 62,644 people.[26] Of those employees, 48,124 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $224,039,245 per month and 14,520 were part-time employees paid $15,701,767 per month.[26] More than 50% of those employees, or 31,622 employees, were in education or higher education.[26]

The total number of state and local government employees was up slightly from the 61,483 employees of state and local government according to the 2007 Census data.[27]

Most state employees work a 37.5 hour workweek, with standard hours of 8:00 am—4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.[28]

Benefits

All full-time employees of the state receive benefits on top of their salary, including health care and life-insurance. Additional benefits such as vision coverage are available for reduced costs.

Health Insurance

Health insurance administered by the state through AlaskaCare is available to employees in the following categories[29]:

  • Confidential
  • Correctional Officers
  • Marine Engineers
  • Supervisory
  • Unlicensed Vessel Personnel
  • Employees not covered by collective bargaining
  • AVTEC

Employees in the following groups are covered by Union health trusts[29]:

  • GGU
  • Labor, Trades and Crafts (800-446-3671, or in Anchorage 276-7611)
  • Public Safety Employees Association
  • Mt. Edgecumbe Teachers
  • Masters, Mates & Pilots

Dental insurance is also available to employees, at a cost ranging from $47/month for the preventative plan to $184/month for the premium plan.[30] Employees may also opt for vision coverage.[31]

Pensions

See also: Alaska public pensions

State of Alaska employees currently are members or participants of four retirement plans, the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) Tiers I, II, III, and IV. Participation in these plans are determined by the date you first entered a PERS covered position.[32] Those plans can also offer disability benefits, medical insurance in retirement, and other fringe benefits. Alaska moved new employees to a defined contribution plan in 2005.[33]

As a participant of the PERS Tier IV employees are immediately vested in all of their contributions to their personal retirement savings account. After two years of service they also vest 25% of the employer contributions, after 5 years of service employees become 100% vested in all employer contributions.[32]

The current unfunded liabilities stand at $6.3 billion for the public employees’ fund and $3.3 billion for the teachers’ system.[34]

Alaska is one of only two states that has set aside at least 50% of the needed assets for retiree health-care and other non-pensions benefits according to a study by the Pew Center on the States.[35]

The state's pension liabilities according to the Pew Center on the States[36], the American Enterprise Institute[37] and Professors Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management.[38]

In Thousands
PEW AEI Kellogg (2009
$3,522,661 $14,192,229 $9,300,000

Public Records

See also: Alaska sunshine lawsuits

The Alaska Public Records Act (APRA) is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to records of government bodies at all levels in Alaska. The law can be found in the Alaska Statutes, statute 40.25.110 - 40.25.125. In 2003 the Alaskan Supreme Court said that access to public records is "a fundamental right" (see Fuller v. City of Homer).

The Alaska Open Meetings Act (AOMA) governs the methods by which public meetings are conducted. The law can be found in the Alaska Statutes, statute 44.62.310 - 44.62.470.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: Alaska FOIA procedures

Transparency advocates

See also: Alaska transparency advocates

Organizations

  • Alaska FOI Coalition, also known as the Alaska Freedom of Information Coalition, is a member of the National FOI Coalition. The organization does not have a website.[39][40]
    • National FOI Coalition is a national non-profit that describes itself as an organization that "protects the public's right to oversee its government." According to the organization they work towards this goal by:[41]
      • Starting up and support citizen-driven state FOI and First Amendment organizations.
      • Foster the exchange of information through networking and its annual conference.
      • Providing a collective voice for state FOI groups at the national level.
      • Assisting fundraising efforts of state organizations.
      • Exploring issues and making recommendations for individual state actions or collective national action.

Blogs

See also: Alaska blogs

External links

Additional reading

References

  1. OMB.Alaska.gov, Office of Management and Budget, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  2. DOA.Alaska.gov, Checkbook Online, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  3. Legis.State.AK.US, Elected Officials, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  4. Alaska.gov, Commissioners, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  5. Law.Alaska.gov, Elected Officials, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  6. Law.Alaska.gov, Ethics Violations, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  7. DOA.Alaska.gov, Elected Officials, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  8. OMB.Alaska.Gov, Performance Audits, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  9. DOA.Alaska.gov, Contracting Rules, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  10. DOA. Alaska.gov, Union Contracts, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  11. State.AK.gov, Public Notices, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  12. DOA.Alaska.gov, Directory of Lobbyists, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  13. DHSS.Alaska.gov, Grants, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  14. DOA.Alaska.gov, Compensation & Travel Report of Executive Positions, Accessed: Feb 10, 2013
  15. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  16. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  17. Alaska Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  18. News Miner, "State Checkbook Goes Online," February 6, 2008
  19. 19.0 19.1 Alaska Department of Administration Division of Finance, "Checkbook Online," accessed March 14, 2010
  20. Alaska Legislature, "Main page: Welcome to the Alaska State Legislature," accessed March 14, 2010
  21. Alaska Legislature, "Senate," accessed March 14, 2010
  22. Alaska Legislature, "House of Representatives," accessed March 14, 2010
  23. Alaska Legislature, "Bills and Laws," accessed March 14, 2010
  24. Text and Status of HB42
  25. Anchorage Daily News, "Online campaign reporting offers instant exposure," January 11, 2009
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 2008 Alaska Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  27. 2007 Alaska Public Employment Data
  28. Employee Benefits Summary
  29. 29.0 29.1 [1]
  30. Dental Plan
  31. Vision Plan
  32. 32.0 32.1 Employee Benefits Summary
  33. Pew Center on the States "The Trillion Dollar Gap" Feb. 2010
  34. Rates adjusted to address unfunded PERS/TRS gap
  35. The Wall Street Journal "States Press Workers on Healthcare" Aug. 27, 2010
  36. "State Pensions and Retiree Healthcare Benefits: The Trillion Dollar Gap,” Pew Center on the States, accessed January 4, 2011
  37. Biggs, Andrew, “The Market Value of Public-Sector Pension Deficits,” AEI Outlook Series, no. 1 (2010)
  38. Novy-Marx, Robert and Joshua Rauh, 2010, "Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They and What Are They Worth," Journal of Finance (forthcoming)
  39. Citizens for Ethics, "Alaska Freedom of Information Coalition," accessed March 14, 2010
  40. National Freedom of Information Coalition, "Alaska FOI Resources," accessed March 14, 2010
  41. National Freedom of Information Coalition, "About NFOIC," accessed March 14, 2010