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Evaluation of Tennessee state website

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Transparency grading process

TN.gov is the website for the state of Tennessee.

Website evaluation

In 2011 Tennessee earned a Sunny Award for having a perfect website transparency score.

This website was reviewed on January 24, 2012.

The good

  • The site has a search function and is fairly easy to navigate.
  • The state has a transparency website.[1]
  • Elected officials are listed, with links to pages with contact information.[2]
  • Agencies are listed with contact information.[3]
  • Budgets are posted.[4]
  • Audits are posted.[5][6]
  • Information, forms, and contact are provided for public records requests.[7]
  • Bid opportunities are posted.[8]
  • Statewide contracts are posted.[9]
  • Tax information is available.[10]
  • Ethics information is available.[11]
  • Lists of lobbyists and their reports are available.[12]

The bad

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 51 out of 100.[13]

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.[14]

Tennessee received an overall grade of C, or 76%. It ranked 8 out of the 50 states.[15]

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

General Assembly website

The General Assembly website earned a Government-to-Citizen Achievement Award from the Center for Digital Government in 2009 and 2010. According to the Center for Digital Government, the site has been noted for it's amount of educational material, being well organized, nice design, and streaming video clips with agendas and bill information.[16]

Transparency Legislation

See also: Tennessee transparency legislation


Resources

Resource Run by Includes Year URL
Recovery Tennessee State Stimulus tracking 2011 http://www.tnrecovery.gov/
Online Campaign Finance State Campaign finance and lobbyist disclosure 2011 https://apps.tn.gov/tncamp/
Live Video State Video coverage of House and Senate 2011 http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/livevideo/
Tennessee Ethics State Disclosure of Interests 2011 https://apps.tn.gov/conflict/
Open Tennessee State Vendors, salaries, audits, budgets 2011 http://tn.gov/opengov/
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in Politics Campaign contributions 2010 http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=TN

Salaries

See also: Tennessee state government salary

State and Local Employees

In June 2010 the state's total payroll has been projected at nearly $2.8 billion. At that time there were about 44,000 state government jobs paid for through the general fund, averaging $41,000 in salary and benefits. Another 23,800 people work in higher education.[17]

According to 2008 Census data, the state of Tennessee and local governments in the state employed a total of 369,578 people.[18] Of those employees, 306,328 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $1,043,980,357 per month and 63,250 were part-time employees paid $51,602,338 per month.[18] More than 52% of those employees, or 192,840 employees, were in education or higher education.[18]

Unions

Protests at the state Capitol at times included thousands of those opposed to the collective-bargaining bill and to other measures in the legislature that would limit the power of unions. On March 15, 2011, seven protesters were arrested at the state Capitol.[19]

Companion bills are pending in the Tennessee House and Senate that would end collective bargaining by teachers, making it so that Tennessee school districts no longer have to negotiate with teachers' unions.[20] The Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 0113 along party lines by a vote of 6-3 on Feb. 16, 2011.[20]

Supporters of the bills note that none of Tennessee's neighboring states require collective bargaining with teachers, and that the teachers' negotiating rights are unique among public employees.[20] Arguing against the bill, a lobbyist for the Tennessee Education Association said that the legislation unfairly targets teachers.[20] Opponents also say the move takes away the assurance that teachers are compensated at decent levels,noting that Tennessee teachers own salaries below the national average.[21] <math>Insert formula here</math>

State Employee Benefits

Holidays State employees receive the following 11 paid holidays:[22]

  • New Year's Day
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Presidents' Day
  • Good Friday
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

Annual Leave Full-time employees earn annual leave each month at a rated based on years of service as follows[23]:

Years of Service Annual Leave Earned per Month Maximum Allowable days
0 up to 5 1 day 30 days
5 up to 10 1 and ½ days 36 days
10 up to 20 1 and ¾ days 39 days
20 or more 2 days 42 days

Sick Leave All full-time employees accrue 1 day (7.5 hours) of sick leave per month, provided they work the major portion of that month.[23]

Bereavement Leave Leave with pay is granted for three days in the event of the death of an employee's spouse, child, stepchild, grandchild, parents, grandparents, siblings, stepparents, foster parents, or parents-in-law without charge to the employee's leave time. Two additional days of sick leave may be granted to provide a total of five days absence for this purpose.[23]

Insurance

Employees can select among three health insurance plans: a PPO, a POS, and an HMO.[24] For each plan, the state pays $430.48 for an employee who has individual coverage and $1074.75 for an employee with family coverage.[25]

Dental insurance is available to employees, and employees pay the full cost of the premium.[25]

The state provides, at no cost to employees, $20,000 of basic term life insurance and $40,000 of basic special accident coverage. For employees who elect health coverage, the amount of coverage increases as the employee's salary increases, with premiums for coverage above $20,000/$40,000 deducted from the employee's paycheck. The maximum amount of coverage is $50,000 for term life and $100,000 for accidental death and dismemberment. The amount of coverage declines when the employee is older than 65.[26]

Eligible dependents of employees enrolled in health coverage are covered for $3,000 of basic dependent term life coverage. Dependents are eligible for basic special accident insurance, with the amounts of coverage based on salary and family composition.[26]

Optional Supplemental Coverage Long-term care coverage is an optional benefit available to employees, who pay the full cost of the premium.[25] Optional special accident coverage is available to employees, as is universal life and term life insurance.[26]

Other Benefits

  • Longevity Pay - Beginning with the completion of 36 months of creditable state service (1,600 hours or more worked in a fiscal year), employees receive an annual payment of $100.00 for each year of creditable state service to a maximum of 30 years of service ($3,000).[23]
  • Flexible Benefits Plan[23]
  • Higher Education Fee Discounts and Waivers - A 25% discount on undergraduate tuition at any state operated institution of higher learning in Tennessee is available to children 23 years of age or under of full time state employees. In addition, full-time state employees with six months of continuous service are eligible to have tuition fees waived for one course per semester at a state institution.[23]
  • Employee Assistance Program is a confidential counseling and referral service for all employees and their dependents. All services are strictly confidential and can be accessed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.[23]

Pensions

See also: Tennessee public pensions

All full-time state employees are covered by the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, a defined benefit pension plan.[27]

Contribution Rate

The State contributes 13.64% of an employee's salary.[27]

Funding Levels

The state's pension liabilities can be calculated in a variety of ways, which yield different numbers. Below are the numbers as calculated by to the Pew Center on the States,[28] the American Enterprise Institute[29] and Professors Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management.[30]

In Thousands
PEW (2008) AEI (2008) Kellogg (2009)
$1,602,802 $30,546,099 $23,200,000

Other information from the Pew Center on the States Feb. 2010 publication "The Trillion Dollar Gap":

State Pension Funding Levels 2008 (figures are in thousands)[31]
Latest liability Latest unfunded liability Annual required contribution Latest actual contribution
$32,715,771 $1,602,802 $838,259 $825,259
State Retiree Health Care and Other Non-Pension Benefits Funding 2008 (figures are in thousands)[31]
Latest liability Latest unfunded liability Annual required contribution Latest actual contribution
$1,746,879 $1,746,879 $167,787 $63,140
Underfunded pension liabilities
Number of pension plans Pension assets ($bn) Stated liabilities ($bn) Funding status (% of tax revenue)
1 $25.8 $34.7 -284%

This data is based on projected data from 2008 census data.[32] In 2008, $1.94 trillion was set aside for pensions, but it is estimated that states have $5.17 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Rate of Return

Tennessee presumes a 7.50% return rate on its pension investments.[31]

Public Records

See also: Tennessee sunshine lawsuits

The Tennessee Public Records Act (Tennessee Code Annotated 10-7-101 et seq.) is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

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

Recent news

See also: Tennessee transparency headlines


Transparency blocking
No recent news.


Litigation
No recent news.


Legislation
No recent news.


Sunshine Guardians
No recent news.



External links

References

  1. TN.gov "Open Government," Accessed January 24, 2012
  2. TN.gov "Elected Officials," Accessed January 24, 2012
  3. TN.gov "Agencies and Departments," Accessed January 24, 2012
  4. TN.gov "Budget Archive," Accessed January 24, 2012
  5. TN.gov "CAFR," Accessed January 24, 2012
  6. TN.gov "Audits and Reports," Accessed January 24, 2012
  7. TN.gov "Open Records," Accessed January 24, 2012
  8. TN.gov "RFPs," Accessed January 24, 2012
  9. TN.gov "Statewide Contracts," Accessed January 24, 2012
  10. TN.gov "Online Filing," Accessed January 24, 2012
  11. TN.gov "Ethics Commission," Accessed January 24, 2012
  12. TN.gov "Lobbyist search," Accessed January 24, 2012
  13. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  14. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  15. Tennessee Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  16. Market Watch, Tennessee General Assembly Website Receives Top Honor, Oct. 18, 2010
  17. Bloomberg "Tenn. gov-elect sticking to no layoffs in 1st year" Jan. 12, 2011
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 2008 Tennessee Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  19. The Tennessean "Police remove, arrest 7 people at TN Capitol after union protests" March 16, 2011
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 The Deseret News "Bill targets teacher collective bargaining rights" Feb. 16, 2011
  21. The Mountain Press "Union busting? Legislature studies bill that would reverse teachers’ right to collective bargaining" Feb. 21, 2011
  22. Holidays
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 23.6 Benefits
  24. Health Insurance
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Monthly Premiums
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Life Insurance
  27. 27.0 27.1 TCRS Annual Report
  28. "State Pensions and Retiree Healthcare Benefits: The Trillion Dollar Gap,” Pew Center on the States, accessed January 4, 2011
  29. Biggs, Andrew, “The Market Value of Public-Sector Pension Deficits,” AEI Outlook Series, no. 1 (2010)
  30. Novy-Marx, Robert and Joshua Rauh, 2010, "Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They and What Are They Worth," Journal of Finance (forthcoming)
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 Pew Center on the States "The Trillion Dollar Gap" Feb. 2010
  32. Northwestern University, The Liabilities and Risks of State-Sponsored Pension Plans, May 2010