Above the Fold 05.06.09

Virginia officials mum about stolen ‘sh**!’…Recovery.gov to be fashionably late…Mass. criminal records get poo-pooed by state auditor…Forget that birth certificate? No vote for you…How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if the woodchuck had $74 billion…Tennessee citizens want the gov’t to prove it can count…

State officials in Virginia aren’t saying much concerning recent reports on a security breach purportrated against the Department of Health Professions computers, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Yesterday, media reports unveiled a ransom note left by the hacker asking for $10 million, posted on WikiLeaks. Dismissing the severity of the breach, Gov. Tim Kaine said, “These are not like patient files from doctors’ offices that are being rummaged through. That’s not what they are.”

Recovery.gov may not have the kinds of details about stimulus spending the Obama administration is claiming it will have until October or even next spring, USA Today reports. Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, said storage capacity was an issue they were focusing on while pushing for more info from the states in the next round of guidance from the OMB. Greg Elin of the Sunlight Foundation said the Obama administration is moving relatively quickly to gather and present massive amounts of data, but that if “we have to wait until October to get the information or to the end of the year to get a powerful recovery.gov site, the Obama administration will have missed an important opportunity.”

Massachusetts State Audior gave the state’s criminal records system a failing grade in an audit to be released today, the Boston Globe reports. The year-long review of the system found more than 38,000 cases where convictions did not appear in the database, including murder and failing to register as a sex offender, as well as few safeguards against mistaken information being entered into the database.  “I am deeply concerned that the lack of a modern, state-of-the-art criminal history information system could pose a threat to public safety,” State Audior Joe DeNucci said. “These are serious public safety concerns that must be addressed.” Massachusetts is the only state that does not use fingerprint verification before changes to criminal records, the audit also found.

The Associated Press reports that Georgia and Arizona are now the only states in the Union that requires prospective voters to prove their U.S. citizenship before voting. Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed the measure into law Tuesday, causing an uproar among opponents who say the requirement would keep the poor, elderly and minorities away from the polls. “It’s tantamount to a poll tax,” said Elise Shore, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. However Ga. Sec. of State Karen Handel said it is needed to prevent voter fraud. “With photo ID we have extremely high integrity at the ballot box,” Handel said. “Now we need to do the same with our voter registration.” According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least five other states are considering the move – Colorado, Illinois, Tennessee, Washington and Virginia.

Much of the $74 billion in stimulus funds doled out from federal agencies is sitting dormant, a report from CNNMoney.com claims. Because states have to jump through so many hoops before they can claim the funds and put them to use only $15.6 billion of the $74 billion has been put to action. However, many states are reversing some of their education and social services cuts in anticipation of getting the funds soon. “Some outlays happen over years,” said Lana Hurdle, the federal Department of Transportation’s acting assistant secretary for budget and programs. “It’s not something that happens over weeks. There’s more than just one single bill per project.” Observers think, though that getting the money over time could prove to be a better strategy. “It’s better that it doesn’t come out as a flash,” said John Thomasian, director of the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices. “You don’t want a sugar high off of this.”

Tennessee has thrown its hat into the stimulus tracking ring with www.tn.gov/opengov, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Gov. Phil Bredesen said, “This makes it easier for taxpayers to access information by aggregating data in a centralized place on the state’s Web site.” The website will focus on vendor payments, travel expenses and employee salary information. “The commitment to openness and transparency I made from the beginning of my administration takes another important step forward with the introduction of this new tool for citizens to access information about state spending.”

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