Thursday, July 18, 2013

Idaho comes in near bottom of group's Integrity Index

Idaho ranks in the bottom five when it comes to having laws on the books that enable regular citizens to scrutinize government by attending public meetings, reviewing documents and raising questions without fear of retribution, according to a national study released this week by the Better Government Association, a Chicago-based non-partisan watchdog organization.

The good news is that every state in the Union received a mediocre to poor score, so the bar isn't that high. But still ... 

The Integrity Index, a comprehensive report issued by the association and sponsored by Alper Services LLC, analyzes laws from all 50 states in four key categories: open meetings, freedom of information, whistleblower protection and conflict of interest.

"Our findings show that current laws in most states are woefully inadequate, locking citizens out or forcing them to jump through unnecessary hoops as they attempt to exercise their fundamental democratic right to keep an eye on government," said Andy Shaw, president and CEO of the BGA. 

In measuring ethics laws and government conduct in all 50 states, the Integrity Index determined the overall national average is 55 percent, with all states receiving scores categorized as mediocre or poor and not a single state cracking 70 percent. The low marks suggest the states are vastly underperforming at enacting tough transparency, accessibility and accountability laws, and much more needs to be done to inspire public trust and confidence.

The report made note that several of the states receiving higher marks — particularly Rhode Island, New Jersey, Illinois and Louisiana — aren't commonly viewed as paragons of good government. Those states might rank higher today because years of corruption and embarrassing scandals led to the adoption of stricter safeguards and more comprehensive sunshine laws. The report also cautions people not to assume that just because tougher laws are on the books public officials are following them or states are enforcing them.

For more information about the Integrity Index and to find out where your state ranked in each category, visit www.bettergov.org.

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