Evaluation of Rhode Island state website
This website was reviewed on January 24, 2012.
- The site has a search function and is fairly easy to navigate.
- Agencies and offices are listed, with contact information on their pages.
- Budgets are posted.
- Includes current budget and previous budgets.
- Tax information is available.
- Audits are posted.
- Ethics information is available.
- Lobbyists are listed
- Some information is available on the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act.
- Bid opportunities are posted.
- Site publishes information on open bids, canceled bids and awarded bids.
- Awarded contracts are posted but do not appear to contain price information.
- No forms or contact information are provided for making public records requests.
- No information is available on Taxpayer-funded lobbying
- Amounts paid are not included in posted contracts.
U.S. PIRG rating
The scorecard that U.S. PIRG uses has 13 items and focuses on a separate state website that is searchable at the checkbook level. Sunshine Review, on the other hand, focuses on the availability of separate spending-related items; they do not need to be in a central database.
|Checkbook-level website||30||Detailed expenditure information, including individual payments made to vendors.|
|Search by vendor||8||Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by contractor or vendor name.|
|Search by keyword of activity||8||Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by type of service or item purchased, category, or government fund.|
|Search by agency or departments||8||Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by branch of government.|
|Contract or summary information||10||A copy of the contract or detailed summary information is included for the expenditures.|
|Historical expenditures||5||Checkbook-level expenditure data from previous fiscal years.|
|Grants and economic development incentives information||10||Awardee-specific grants and/or economic development incentives are included in the checkbook tool or elsewhere with specific award amounts.|
|Downloadable||3||Information can be downloaded for data analysis.|
|Tax expenditure reports||10||The state's tax expenditure report is linked on the website.|
|Off-budget agencies||2||Expenditures from quasi-public agencies are included on the website.|
|City and county budgets||2||Financial information for some local governments is accessible.|
|ARRA Funding||2||A link is provided to the state's website that tracks funding related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.|
|Feedback||2||Website users are capable and encouraged to give feedback about the site.|
There are several similarities between the checklists. For both checklists, the searchability of information factors in to how usability is rated. Both checklists have an item relating to contracts, tax information, and the budget. The U.S. PIRG requires information for quasi public entities; Sunshine Review requires information on lobbying, which includes quasi public entities lobbying activity.
Unlike the Sunshine Review checklist with each check worth one point, different items on the U.S. PIRG checklist merit more or fewer points, depending on the item.
State Integrity Investigation
The 2012 State Integrity Investigation graded state ethics laws according to an "Integrity Index." The index was created by researching 330 "Integrity Indicators" across 14 categories of state government. The report assigned grades based on what laws are on the books, and whether or not they were effectively enforced. The report was a project of The Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.
Rhode Island received an overall grade of C, or 74%. It ranked 10 out of the 50 states.
|Public Access to Information||B-|
|State Budget Processes||D+|
|State Civil Service Management||F|
|State Pension Fund Management||C-|
|Ethics Enforcement Agencies||C-|
|State Insurance Commissions||C+|
Twenty-seven state and local districts violated state laws on open meetings and public records, a GoLocalProv analysis found. Of 27 repeat offenders since 2010, six were fire districts, four were towns, and four were town councils, according to data from the state Attorney General’s Open Government Unit. According to the report violations ranged from failure to cite the proper reason for going into closed session to locking the door to a public meeting.
|Government Entityy||Number of Violations|
|Albion Fire District||28|
|Western Coventry Fire District||11|
|Manville Fire District||10|
|Nasonville Fire District||8|
|West Greenwich Town Council||8|
|Town of North Providence||6|
|Bristol Water Authority||5|
|City of Pawtucket||5|
|International Charter School of Pawtucket||5|
|Pascoag Fire District||5|
|North Cumberland Fire District||4|
|Providence Economic Development Partnership||4|
|East Providence Police Department||3|
|Town of North Smithfield||3|
|Burlington Tax Assessor||2|
|Barrington Town Council||2|
|City of Central Falls||2|
|Hopkinton Town Council||2|
|New Shoreham and Electrical Utilities Task Group||2|
|Office of Long Term Care Ombudsman||2|
|Pawtucket School Committee||2|
|Portsmouth Town Council||2|
|Providence School Department||2|
|RI Department of Corrections||2|
|RI Economic Development Corporation||2|
|Town of Lincoln||2|
|Town of Naragansett||2|
|DOA Transparency Portal||State||Income and expenditures||2011||http://www.ri.gov/opengovernment/DOA/|
|Recovery Rhode Island||State||Stimulus tracking||2011||http://www.recovery.ri.gov/|
|The Money Trail||RISC Foundation||Money tracking||2008||http://themoneytrail.org/track.php|
|Transparency Train||Ocean State Policy Research Institute||Contracts||2010||http://www.transparencytrain.com/|
|Follow the Money||National Institute on Money in Politics||Campaign contributions||2010||http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=RI|
State and Local Employees
Thousands of state workers will see a 3-percent across-the-board raise on Jan. 2 and another 3-percent raise in mid-June. The last raise for state employees was 2.5% in July 2009. The state budget office has calculated that the two raises will cost the state an extra $12,051,000 in the current budget year, and $24.5 million more next year. That estimate does not include the cost the state will incur when salaries automatically increase for state employees as they reach certain benchmarks in their careers, called longevity bonuses.
To avoid layoffs, state employee unions agreed to 12 unpaid work days, for which their members could be compensated later in either cash or extra paid days off. The final four will be reflected in the paychecks they receive on the third Friday of every month from January 2011 to April 2011.
According to 2008 Census data, the state of Rhode Island and local governments in the state employed a total of 59,761 people. Of those employees, 47,755 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $225,221,773 per month and 12,006 were part-time employees paid $12,127,083 per month. More than 55% of those employees, or 33,310 employees, were in education or higher education.
State Employee Benefits
Paid Days Off
Holidays State employees receive the following 11 paid holidays:
- New Year's Day
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Victory Day
- Columbus Day
- Election Day
- Veterans' Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day
Sick leave Each state employee working a 40 hour week earns 15 sick days per year, which can be carried over each year to a maximum of 125 days.
Vacation Vacation time is accrued each pay period. It takes one year to accrue your total number of vacation days.
|Years of Service||Total Vacation Days|
Personal Days Each employee shall be granted four personal days per year.
Medical The State of Rhode Island’s medical plan is a PPO that includes prescription coverage that is administered by UnitedHealthcare (UHC). The amount of the employee's coshare varies depending on the employee's salary, and ranges from 15-25%, and the biweekly coshare amount for individual medical coverage ranges from $34.73 to $57.89. The state pays $231.54 biweekly for individual coverage.
Life Employees may purchase basic and supplemental life insurance through payroll deduction and employees are responsible for the full cost of both.
Additional Eployees may elect to purchase (through payroll deductions) short term disability insurance and/or cancer insurance.
Most Rhode Island state employees and certified public school teachers participate in the Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island.(ERSRI).
State employees generally contribute 8.75% of their salary per year. For state employees, the state contributes an actuarially determined percentage of the member's salary. In 2007, the rate was 18.4%.
All members with 10 or more years of service are eligible for retirement on or after age 60 if they have credit for 10 years of service, or at any age if they have credit for 28 years of service.
A Deferred Compensation Plan allows employees to accumulate tax-deferred savings for retirement. Employees can elect automatic payroll deductions, subject to the annual maximums. The maximum for 2009 is $16,500 ($22,000 for employees age 50 and over). The state offers plans from three providers.
- Medical and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts allow employees to use pre-tax dollars to pay for health-related or care-related expenses.
- Employee Assistance Program offers trained counselors to provide professional assistance with a wide range of issues.
- Group Legal through which employees may purchase pre-paid legal services.
Rhode Island administers four public pension systems. In FY2008, the systems had a combined funding level of 61.1%, with a total liability of $11.2 billion and an unfunded liability nearly three times payroll.
The state budget bill Rhode Island House Bill 7397 HB 7397, Article 6, removed a statutory obligation to make certain payments to the state retirement system for state employees and for teachers.
Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island ("ERS") is severely underfunded. It operated on a pay-as-you-go basis from 1936 to the late 1970s. Although the state has made 100% of its contributions since the 1980s, the system is still just 57%. "You’re paying for the sins of the past,” said Frank Karpinski, executive director of the Rhode Island system. A recent study by economists Joshua Rauh of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business concluded that the Rhode Island pension fund will run out of money in 2023.
State employees in the ERS generally contribute 8.75% of their salary per year. For state employees, the state contributes an actuarially determined percentage of the member's salary. In 2007, the rate was 18.4%.
All members employed by the state prior to 2010 with 10 or more years of service are eligible for retirement on or after age 60 if they have credit for 10 years of service, or at any age if they have credit for 28 years of service.
Increased Retirement Age
In 2010 Rhode Island lawmakers not only increased the retirement age for new workers from 60 to 62, but they also changed the retirement age for current workers. Now the minimum retirement age for current workers depends on their length of service.
Cost of Living Adjustments
Rhode Island included in its FY2011 budget a limit on the cost-of-living adjustments provided future retirees to the pensioner's first $35,000 in benefits and require eligible individuals to wait until age 65 to begin collecting the annual COLAs.
The state's pension liabilities can be calculated in a variety of ways, which yield different numbers. Below are the numbers as calculated by to the Pew Center on the States, the American Enterprise Institute and Professors Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management.
|PEW (2008)||AEI (2008)||Kellogg (2009)|
The Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act (APRA) is a law, first enacted in 1979, that guarantees access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Rhode Island. APRA is defined in Chapter 38.2 of the Rhode Island General Laws; this chapter has 15 different subsections detailing aspects of APRA.
APRA was enacted in 1979, and then significantly revised in 1991, 1998 and 2008.
Rhode Island was the forty-ninth state to enact a FOIA law.
The Rhode Island Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.
To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: Rhode Island FOIA procedures
- See also: Rhode Island transparency headlines
- R.I. House to vote on bill protecting deadly force offenders 2009-08-04 13:23:41
- Open-records bill approved by Rhode Island House 2009-08-04 13:16:09
- School’s legal bills under wraps 2009-06-16 16:43:36
- RI Supreme Court orders release of private agency contracts 2010-06-25 09:05:49
- Carcieri must turn over documents 2009-06-16 16:39:37
- RI town sued over alleged open records violation 2009-06-16 16:31:04
- Coalition seeks to open birth records in R.I. 2009-06-16 16:41:41
- Governor has qualms over release of names, vetoes public records bill 2009-06-16 11:53:15
- Carcieri vetoes ‘sunshine’ bill, 21 others 2009-06-16 11:51:17
- Ocean State Policy Research Institute launches stimulus watch site 2009-08-04 13:14:42
- Rhode Island House
- Rhode Island Senate
- Attorney General
- Contact the Governor
- See sample transparency legislation at the Sunshine Standard
- Rhode Island on State Budget Solutions
- Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity