Wyoming bill would increase exemptions to public records law

Corruption news for Wyoming, from the Wyoming Tribune Eagle:

Senate File 25 would give Wyoming residents better access to public records, its supporters say. But on Monday the state Senate approved changes that would result in a big step back for public access, says Jim Angell, executive director of the Wyoming Press Association.

These changes would “lock out the public from seeing an unacceptable amount of documents that spell out why our public bodies make the decisions they do,” Angell said.

Read the rest of the story at the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

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Utah education leader says budget process lacks transparency

Corruption news for Utah, from the Deseret News:

Updated revenue estimates will be released Tuesday as lawmakers start the arduous task of piecing together a nearly $13 billion state budget. And one big player in the budget deliberations is crying foul over the process, accusing the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee of pulling a fast one.

State school superintendent Larry Shumway asked legislative leaders in a letter Friday to set aside the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee recommendations and decisions, alleging it violated Utah's open meetings law. Shumway said the committee passed out two lists containing legislative "intent language" and "statutory language" that weren't on the agenda and that neither the public nor many committee members had access to prior to the meeting.

Read the rest of the story at the Deseret News.

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Nevada businessman, associates gave $117,000 to Sen. Harry Reid in one day

Corruption news for Nevada, from the Reno Gazette-Journal:

Harvey Whittemore’s family and workers at his businesses across Nevada each gave $2,300 contributions to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on a single day in 2007 — for a grand one-day total of $117,300, according to a Reno Gazette-Journal analysis of campaign finance records.

FBI agents issued subpoenas last week to an undisclosed list of Whittemore associates as part of a statewide investigation into his campaign-contribution activities.Funneling funds through employees could lead to felony charges that sometimes carry sizable prison sentences, according to campaign finance experts.

Read the rest of the story at the Reno Gazette-Journal.

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Delaware Department of Transportation opens records for inquiry

Corruption news for Delaware, from The News Journal:

Outside investigators will conduct a probe of the planning, real estate and record-keeping practices of the Delaware Department of Transportation as a result of new signs of poor document security and unexplained gaps in key files potentially involving millions in taxpayer dollars. In launching the sweeping review, Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt did not rule out the possibility of criminal misconduct.

The investigation was triggered by a series of Freedom of Information Act requests filed by The News Journal in recent months involving agency land deals and the involvement of political figures in certain highway projects that affect commercial interests.

Read the rest of the story at The News Journal.

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West Virginia lawmakers want independent budget analysis

Corruption news for West Virginia, from the Charleston Gazette:

State lawmakers are debating a bill that would create an independent fiscal office to provide more accurate cost estimates for proposed law and policy changes.West Virginia agencies draft fiscal notes that lawmakers rely on to determine whether the state can afford a new program or policy change.

But Sen. Herb Snyder says agencies can use the fiscal notes to influence policy by downplaying costs for programs they support or over-estimating the price tag if the agency disagrees with a proposal.

Read the rest of the story at the Charleston Gazette.

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Idaho legislature debates ethics reform

Corruption news for Idaho, from the Spokesman-Review:

When Idaho Sen. Mitch Toryanski was a West Point cadet, the definition of ethics was clear: A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do. The penalty was expulsion.Now that he’s a state senator serving on the Idaho Legislature’s bipartisan working group on ethics, it’s a bit more complex. “What kind of system do we want to ensure integrity?” Toryanski (pictured, right) asked. “I don’t think anyone knows what we’re going to do, but hey, the conversation’s started.”

The working group, with four senators and four representatives, half from each party, has been meeting twice a week for the past four weeks to try to find common ground on how to establish an independent ethics commission for Idaho, something 41 states have but Idaho lacks.

Read the rest of the story at the Spokesman-Review.

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Tennessee Senate considers anti-transparency bill on state grants

Corruption news for Tennessee, from the Times Free Press:

Top legislative leaders want to rewrite Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislation that would keep the public from seeing the names of owners of companies receiving taxpayer-funded economic incentives.Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said citizens should know the ownership interests behind companies getting state Fast Track development grants, tax incentives and tax credits.

A bill sought by Haslam (pictured, right), a fellow Republican, and Economic Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty seeks more detailed information from companies receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money. It includes “information on business processes, organizational structure and ownership, financial statements” and similar data.

Read the rest of the story at the Times Free Press.

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Minnesota enforcer too understaffed to catch lobbying violations

Corruption news for Minnesota, from the Star Tribune:

The state's top regulator of lobbyists and campaign spending said Tuesday that he can't fully enforce state law on influence peddling at the State Capitol because of staff shortages in his office. The state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board knows that some of Minnesota's 1,450 registered lobbyists are not complying with disclosure laws, but the board doesn't have staff to catch them because they must focus on other priorities, according to Gary Goldsmith, the board's executive director.

Goldsmith said, for example, that his office knows of groups that hire lobbyists who are not disclosing the underlying source of their funds, which is required by law.

Read the rest of the story at the Star Tribune.

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Texas prisons avoid public disclosure on execution drug

Corruption news for Texas, from the Austin American-Statesman:

A new report surfaced on Tuesday that Texas again might be running out of a key drug used to execute its condemned criminals, but state prison officials said that they have enough to carry out the next six scheduled executions. What happens after that might be anyone's guess, thanks to a new no-disclosure policy imposed by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on details about the execution drugs.

Two years ago, the prison system revealed its drug supplier and the amount of drugs on hand after Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion saying it was public information. The prison system had sought to keep the information secret, arguing that releasing details about the drug supply might trigger violent protests outside the execution chamber or embolden death penalty opponents.

Read the rest of the story at the Austin American-Statesman.

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Judge recommends New York redistricting be turned over to special master

Corruption news for New York, from the New York Times:

A federal judge, citing lawmakers’ “current state of inaction” in redrawing New York’s political map, recommended on Monday that the state’s redistricting process be turned over to a court-appointed special master.

Noting that Congressional primaries are scheduled for June, the judge, Dora L. Irizarry of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, said it was time for the federal courts to take charge of ensuring that New York has an election process that complies with state and federal law.

Read the rest of the story at the New York Times.

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