Evaluation of Arkansas state website
- 1 Website evaluation
- 2 U.S. PIRG rating
- 3 State Integrity Investigation
- 4 Other state websites
- 5 Resources
- 6 Salaries
- 7 Pensions
- 8 Public Records
- 9 Transparency legislation
- 10 Other transparency resources
- 11 Transparency advocates
- 12 External links
- 13 References
- See also: Evaluation of state websites.
This website was reviewed on January 12, 2012.
- The site has a search function and is fairly easy to navigate.
- State agencies are listed with contact information, and a directory is available.
- Legislators and executive officials are listed with contact information.
- Budgets are posted.
- Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports are posted.
- Ethics information is posted, including registered lobbyists with the state.
- Property tax rates are posted, along with business tax information and general tax information.
- Bid opportunities are posted, as are statewide contracts.
- Full text of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act is posted, but no form/contact information for requesting records is provided.
- No information is available on Taxpayer-funded lobbying.
U.S. PIRG rating
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.
|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.
Arkansas received an overall grade of D+, or 68%. It ranked 27 out of the 50 states.
|Public Access to Information||F|
|State Budget Processes||C|
|State Civil Service Management||D-|
|State Pension Fund Management||F|
|Ethics Enforcement Agencies||C|
|State Insurance Commissions||D-|
Other state websites
Arkansas General Assembly
- See also: Arkansas General Assembly
The Arkansas General Assembly website posts a variety of information including links to the House and the Senate individual web sites; information on bills, resolutions and acts; budget, meeting and committee calendars; and information on Arkansas law and the State Constitution. On the main page, visitors can find information on recent assembly news and meetings of the day.
The site includes a search tool for sorting through current and past legislative bills. The tool allows visitors to search either by Act or Bill number, sponsor or cosponsor. However, if you aren't quite certain the name of the sponsoring legislator or the bill number, Arkansas offers a generic keyword search tool. For visitors looking for a simple layout of recent bill activities, the site offers a "Recent Bill Activities" page where activities of the current and previous day are posted. A similar page can be found looking at "Bills Filed". A really nice and convenient tool that the site offers is a service in which recent activity or information regarding bills can be e-mailed directly to interested parties. All that is required is user registration. The page can be found here.
|Recovery Arkansas||State of Arkansas||Federal stimulus spending|
- See also: Arkansas state government salary
Gov. Beebe announced Dec. 2, 2010, that he would reinstate cost-of-living raises for state employees. The move will cost the state approximately $18 million per year, which the governor said was justified based on state general revenue collections report for November 2010. That report showed gross general revenue down 13.6% for November compared with November 2009 and 1.2% below the department’s predictions but positive for the first five months of the fiscal year.
According to 2008 Census data, the state of Arkansas and local governments in the state employed a total of 190,155 people. Of those employees, 155,216 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $478,078,745 per month and 34,939 were part-time employees paid $24,804,627 per month. More than 40% of those employees, or 32,278 employees, were in education or higher education.
The total number of employees in 2008 was up from 2007; according to 2007 Census data, the state of Arkansas had 187,503 total employees.
- See also: Arkansas public pensions
The Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System was created by the Arkansas legislature's Act 177 of 1957 and provides retirement benefits for state, county, municipal, college and university employees, non-teaching public school employees, and other non-state employees.
A recent study by economists Joshua Rauh of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business concluded that the Arkansas pension fund will run out of money in 2019.
- See also: Arkansas sunshine lawsuits
The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act was established in 1967. It is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies.
The Arkansas Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.
Statutes 25-19-101 through 25-19-109 define these transparency laws.
To learn more about how to make a public records request in Arkansas, please see: Arkansas FOIA procedures.
- See also: Arkansas transparency legislation
- The Arkansas House approved a bill that would create an online checkbook of spending by all state agencies except higher education which is on a different accounting system. The bill was introduced by James McLean and is supported by Gov. Mike Beebe.
Approximately 11 different bills were proposed in 2009 regarding transparency legislation. Below are five examples of proposed bills:
- House Bill 1049 was one of several bills proposed by Rep. Dan Greenberg that were designed to strengthen the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. It provided for review of a FOIA denial by the Attorney Generals' Office.
- House Bill 1050 called for requiring new laws that create exemptions to FOIA. For example, FOIA requests must identify with specificity which records or meetings the law exempts. Rep. Greenberg said, “This is kind of a blinking red light, so that from now on when somebody tries to narrow the FOI, at least we’ll know."
- House Bill 1051 proposed allowing access to criminal records for certain individuals. It was defeated 56-33, and a request by the sponsor to return the bill to committee was refused.
- House Bill 1052 proposed prohibiting retaliation against government employees that file FOIA requests.
- House Bill 1053 known as "The Open Checkbooks in Government Act," called for creating an online database of state expenditures.
Other transparency resources
- The National Institute on Money in Politics has a project called Follow the Money, which posts details on campaign contributions.
- See also: Arkansas transparency advocates
- Arkansas Coalition for Open Government is a transparency organization in Arkansas. The organization does not have a website.
- FOIArkansas is a collaborative effort of Arkansas News Bureau, the Log Cabin Democrat of Conway, the Pine Bluff Commercial, the Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith, The Jonesboro Sun and The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas to publicize information about public records in Arkansas.
- "FOI Survey Databases" is a collaboration of various surveys of Arkansas cities, schools, jails, and county health offices. The surveys, conducted in 1999, tested each office's compliance with the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
- The Arkansas Citizens Rights to Information website was created to help residents make public records requests.
- See also: Arkansas blogs
- American Truckers At War
- Arkansas Concealed Carry Association
- The Truth in Arkansas Politics
- Arkansas Watch
- ARRA News Service
- The Banana Republic of Arkansas
- Boozman Blog
- The Citizen's Journal
- Freeman Hunt
- Keep Arkansas Legal
- The Metropolis Times
- Red State Conservative
- Rett Hatcher & Company
- The Roebuck Report
- The Shamgar Report
- Silver Republican
- Val's Bien
- Arkansas General Assembly
- Arkansas House
- Arkansas Senate
- Arkansas Attorney General
- Contact the Governor
- Arkansas.gov, "State Agencies," accessed January 12, 2012
- Arkansas.gov, "State Directory," accessed January 12, 2012
- Arkansas.gov, "Legislative Branch," accessed January 12, 2012
- Arkansas.gov, "Executive Branch," accessed January 12, 2012
- Arkansas.gov, "Budgets," accessed January 12, 2012
- Arkansas.gov, "CAFR," accessed January 12, 2012
- Arkansas Ethics Commission, "Home page," accessed January 12, 2012
- Arkansas.gov, "Statewide Values and Rates," accessed January 12, 2012
- Arkansas.gov, "Tax Center," accessed January 12, 2012
- Arkansas.gov, "General Tax Information," accessed January 12, 2012
- Arkansas.gov, "Online Services (Taxes tab)," accessed January 12, 2012
- Arkansas.gov, "Bids," accessed January 12, 2012
- Arkansas.gov, "Statewide Contracts," accessed January 12, 2012
- Arkansas.gov, "FOIA," accessed January 12, 2012 (dead link)
- US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
- "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
- Arkansas Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
- Arkansas General Assembly, "Main Page," accessed March 21, 2010
- Arkansas General Assembly, "Advanced Search," accessed March 21, 2010
- Arkansas Legislature, "Batch Bills Login," accessed March 21, 2010
- The Arkansas Democrat Gazette "Beebe revives state workers’ cost-of-living raises:" Dec. 3, 2010
- 2008 Arkansas Public Employment U.S. Census Data
- 2007 Public Employment Data
- New Mexico, Study: NM state pension plan will run out of money in 13 years, Sept. 9, 2010
- "Arkansas House approves proposal to create 'online checkbook' tracking gov't spending" March 8, 2011 (dead link)
- Text & Status of HB1049
- Text & Status of HB1050
- The Arkansas Project, "Keep the Sunshine Out?," February 13, 2009
- Text & Status of HB1051
- Text & Status of HB1052
- Text& Status of HB1053
- Follow the Money, "Arkansas 2010," accessed January 29, 2012
- FOIArkansas, "Main Page," accessed March 20, 2010
- FOIArkansas, "FOI Survey Databases," accessed March 20, 2010