Low grades on transparency reports push states to consider more openness

Sunshine Week, a week devoted grading state governments on their transparency recently concluded, rating most states with failing grades. In response, states are looking at new measures designed to improve transparency and provide more information to the public. In Nevada, lawmakers have proposed bills that would make the state legislature subject to Open Meetings rules. In Ohio, Democratic legislators are proposing several bills that would shine line on state meetings and procurement processes.

Last year, following an investigative report from the Las Vegas Sun, Nevada Governor Bill Sandoval signed into law a package of bills designed to provide more transparency around hospital quality. Since then, the legislature has been looking at ways to extend similar reporting to legislative proceedings including requiring the legislature to be subject to state Open Meetings Rules. However, some lawmakers have said the time lines for posting information to the public may be unrealistic for legislative activities.

Reno assemblyman Pat Hickey is proposing a measure that would require interim committees to post agendas three days prior to meetings. If passed the bill would open up meetings held outside of the normal session. Many interim committees already post such information to the public, the measure would create a single standard for all interim committees.

Ohio, received a D- grade during Sunshine Week, leading state Democrats to call for a bi-partisan task force that would make recommendations on measures to improve ethics rules and increase transparency.

Lawmakers are asking for renewed consideration of a bill that would provide more transparency on expenditures. Another bill would create public financing for judicial elections. And a third bill seeks to make the details of public-private partnerships available to the public.

“This Governor is determined to operate this state in the dark. We can never let that happen. If you have nothing to hide you should always want the process to be as open as possible,” said Rep. Lundy at a news conference held to discuss the task force and proposed bills. “As legislators we must take action to correct these problems immediately.”

Lawmakers will push for the bills to be taken up as soon as the legislature returns from its spring recess in a few weeks.

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