State Integrity Investigation

Keeping Government Honest

Posts tagged bipartisan

0 notes &

Maine Governor, House Majority Leader push for reform after “F” grade

Conservative Gov. Paul LePage and his liberal counterparts in the Maine state legislature disagree on many issues, but the two sides have found common ground: An ‘F’ on Maine’s report card is unacceptable. 

LePage, an outspoken Republican in his first term, is encouraging a piece of legislation that would expose state officials’ conflicts of interest and decrease the chances for legislators to line their own pockets with taxpayer money. Gov. LePage said this is the kind of reform that Maine needs to enact to improve the failing grade Maine recieved on its Corruption Risk Report Card.

On the legislative side, House Minority Leader Emily Cain, (D-Orono), said the report card raises substantive issues, and might inspire a bipartisan task force to review the findings and suggest changes going into the next legislative session.

The reform-minded responses are an encouraging sign for a state with nine ‘F’s and two ‘D’s out of the 14 categories under review in the State Integrity Investigation.

In the current session, LePage has already introduced LD 1806, a bill that would require public disclosure from state legislators, constitutional officers and executive branch members if the official or the official’s family member has an ownership or management-level position in a company that receives more than $10,000 from the state.

The proposed increase in transparency would set Maine on a path to an improved grade on its Corruption Risk Report Card, LePage told the Bangor Daily News:

"This is the direction we need to move in to improve Maine’s grade. It’s clear that many states struggle with this issue. However, it is an issue that I will continue to work on improving on behalf of the Maine taxpayer."

Cain floated the idea of a task force to review the problems highlighted in Maine’s failing grade, saying the group would “focus on feedback from the public and experts.”

A spokeswoman for Cain said the House Minority Leader was taking the idea to other leaders in the legislature to gain approval, in the hopes that the group could make suggestions before the legislature reconvenes in 2013. The spokeswoman said the task force would not look into “any one specific point from the report, but potentially use the report as a jumping-off point.”

With the statements from LePage and Cain, Maine becomes the fifth state to use State Integrity Investigation findings to support reform proposals, joining DelawareMichiganOhio and South Carolina.

If you live in Maine and want to encourage your state legislators and Gov. LePage to enact reforms, click here to send the Maine Corruption Risk Report Card and a personalized message to your elected officials. Keep track of this and other movements toward more open, accountable state government onour Reform Efforts page.

Filed under Maine State Government Corruptionrisk Corruption Compromise Bipartisan Paul LePage Republican State Integrity

0 notes &

Ohio Democrats demand transparency task force in response to D grade

By Caitlin Ginley

Citing the Buckeye State’s D grade from the State Integrity Investigation, Democratic legislators in Ohio have called for a bipartisan task force to review current ethics laws and consider new legislation to strengthen accountability and transparency.

“We have a responsibility to the people of Ohio and it is simply unacceptable for us to fail to ensure government is working for Ohioan’s best interest at all times, not for special interest or influences,” said Rep. Jay Goyal (D-Mansfield), in a press conference held Tuesday.

In a letter to legislative leaders, the House Democrats noted “great concern over the recent ethics report from the State Integrity Investigation.”

Among the 14 categories on the state scorecard, they pointed out, Ohio only received two grades higher than a C-. The state failed three categories: legislative accountability, lobbying disclosure and redistricting.

Ohio also received D - grades for executive accountability and judicial accountability, D+ grades for pension fund management and insurance commissions, and C- grades for public access to information, political financing, procurement, and ethics enforcement. Rep. Ted Celeste (D-Grandview Heights) said the grades are not something to be proud of, especially since the state received F’s in a few individual categories.

“We should do everything we can to improve our efforts here,” he said.

In addition to its call for new legislation, the letter also asked for reconsideration of some earlier proposals. Celeste said House Democrats have previously put forth legislation that would address some of the gaps in Ohio’s ethics laws, but those bills have not received serious consideration. Celeste and his colleagues are calling for hearings on those measures, which include proposed new regulations on independent expenditures by corporations and unions and creation of a public financing system for judicial elections.

Those hearings would be held when the legislature returns from spring recess. Another bill would require that records of public-private partnerships, a growing trend in Ohio, be made available to the public. Rep. Matt Lundy (D-Elyria), who sponsored the bill, said these entities – like JobsOhio, a semi-private agency focused on economic development – spend state dollars but are not currently subject to the state’s open record laws.

“It’s hard to keep track of where the money is going,” Lundy said. “If you can’t follow the dollars, you can’t keep track of accountability.”

The fate of the Democrats’ recommendations seems uncertain at best. A spokesman for the Republican House speaker, William Batchelder, told the Columbus Dispatch that the speaker takes transparency and accountability seriously, but questioned the “flawed methodology” of the State Integrity Investigation. The GOP controls both the state House and Senate, as well as the governor’s office. Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, said he stands by the State Integrity Investigation’s methodology and reporting.

If you want your elected officials to take action, send them your state’s report card. Click on the “E-mail this score to your state official” button, and the report card will automatically fill in the e-mail address for your governor and state legislators. Connect with the leaders in your state, and get your report card to the people who represent you.

Filed under ohio pri transparency accountability state integrity investigation center for public integrity state report card ohio change 2012 voice politics jay goyal bipartisan