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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Open States and Transparency

Previous posts have discussed transparency in government. Brian Joseph writes at The Orange County Register:
Two new reports released in conjunction with Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote open government, have found that it ain't exactly sunny in California.
The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Sunlight Foundation gives the California State Legislaturea "D" grade for its efforts to make bill and vote data available online. Meanwhile, the Golden State reform group California Forward is sharply critical of both state and local governments in its report "The State of Transparency in California: 2013."
Both groups have found that the public sector is lagging behind the private sector in information practices.
Sunlight developers recently launched an innovative Web application called Open States, which allows users to track pending legislation in every state legislature. While they were building the site, the developers found themselves "struggling with the often inadequate information made available. Impossibly difficult to navigate sites, information going missing and gnarly PDFs of tabular data have become daily occurrences for those of us working on Open States. People are always curious to know how their state stacked up compared to others – in fact one of the most frequent questions we have been asked has been 'so which state was the worst?' That question got us thinking: How could we derive a measure of how 'open' a state's legislative data was?"
The result was Sunlight's Open Legislative Data Report Card, which gave a letter grade to each state legislature for efforts made to post information online. Sunlight says "each state was evaluated in six categories based largely on the Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," standards based on an October 2007 meeting of 30 open government advocates and expanded by Sunlight itself.
More on Open States: