South Dakota government corruption
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Leaders in the community came together to discuss what the new open records measure means in South Dakota. The new law makes public records public unless there's a good reason to keep them private."
'Nothing is ever a one-time thing that is done when it comes to public administration and public law,' said Tena Haraldson, Associated Press chief of bureau for North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska."
"Seven cases involving disputes over public access to government documents have been filed with the state Office of Hearing Examiners under a new appeals process that was set up last year to resolve such disagreements.
The Office of Hearing Examiners reports that in three appeals, agencies were ordered to provide all or part of the documents requested. One request was denied, and another case is pending."
"An administrative judge has ordered that state permits issued to large business and agricultural processing projects for sales-tax and contractor-tax refunds must be open to public inspection in South Dakota.
The state Department of Revenue and Regulation complied this week with the order and turned over electronic photocopies of the permits."
"Looking at public government information is one important piece of being an informed citizen.
To see public information, it should not matter who you are and why you want to know something. The same public information should be available to any U.S. citizen who makes a request.
However, the government, understandably, should be careful with the overwhelming personal records they keep."
"To uncover how readily USD and Foundation records were disclosed to students, The Volante requested public documents and university information from a variety of departments over the last four months.
Why four months? Last Monday the Student Government Association finally allowed me to view a binder of their General Activity Fee allocations – the last on a list of information I began requesting Dec. 5."
"South Dakota got a little brighter last week when a great deal of sunshine was allowed into state government.
Gov. Mike Rounds signed legislation Thursday that presumes government records are open to the public unless specifically closed by law, ordinance or rule. Rounds’ signature comes after unanimous final votes on the bill last week in both the state House and Senate."
The annual award goes to an individual or group that has worked to protect and enhance the people's right to know. It was presented Friday evening at the 127th annual SDNA convention in Watertown."
"Let's make at least one thing clear.
The open records bill that passed the Legislature is historic.
It's a major step forward for South Dakota that should be celebrated.
The Rushmore State for years has held an antiquated view of how accessible public records should be to the residents of this great state.
The new bill now would create a standard that presumes all government records are open to the public, while specifying some exceptions."
"The Legislature is sending an open records bill to Gov. Mike Rounds containing his requested amendments, and Rounds said Thursday he's inclined to sign it into law.
But some who worked on the issue fear the exceptions Rounds asked for are so sweeping they render the presumption of openness almost meaningless.
"It's better than nothing. Unfortunately, it may be close to nothing," Senate Minority Leader Scott Heidepriem said."
"Gov. Mike Rounds said he's pleased with the compromise opens record bill passed by the Legislature, and is inclined to sign it.
Lawmakers approved a measure that presumes government documents in South Dakota are public, unless there's a good reason for secrecy."
"A bill that would open many government records to the public cleared its first hurdle Friday by passing in a Senate committee.
Senate Bill 147 creates a presumption that government records are public. South Dakota is one of the only states in the nation without such a law.
Sen. Dave Knudson, R-Sioux Falls, the bill's sponsor, acknowledged that some issues need to be addressed as the bill works its way through the legislative process. The bill is modeled after Nebraska's public records law, and it includes specific exemptions for materials that aren't public, such as medical records, trade secrets and personnel issues."
"The sponsor of a bill declaring that most government records are open to the public says he’s optimistic he can shepherd the measure through the 2009 Legislature.
Sen. Dave Knudson, R-Sioux Falls, will get a chance to explain his presumption of openness measure when the Senate State Affairs Committee holds a public hearing on SB147 Wednesday morning in the Capitol.
The Knudson bill takes the position that all government records are open to the public unless specifically closed by a state law."
"Gov. Mike Rounds says he remains convinced that open records discussions in South Dakota should focus on what government information ought to be protected.
The issue, fought last session, is expected to return in the 2009 Legislature. Senate Republican Leader Dave Knudson of Sioux Falls says he’s writing a bill to start the discussion with the concept that government records should be open to the public. It would take a strong argument to keep a record closed, he says."
"One of the more important debates that will take place at the 2009 Legislature will be legislation that establishes greater clarity to South Dakota's open government and open records practices. To date, South Dakota lags embarrassingly behind what is considered baseline legislation throughout many of the nation's other 49 states.
The government that works best isn't necessarily the one that governs the most or least. It's the one that governs in the open."
"When state Sen. Gene Abdallah wanted to know how many aircraft the state owns, he figured it would be easy to get the information.
So last month, the Sioux Falls Republican made a request through the Legislative Research Council - the state's research arm for lawmakers.
The LRC had a list of aircraft, but to get details about those planes - their conditions and estimated values - a researcher had to
Instead of providing the information, however, state officials demanded to know which legislator was asking."
"The people of South Dakota have partnered with the video lottery industry for nearly 20 years, but the people know very little about their partners.
South Dakota law bars citizens from accessing other than the most basic information about the industry. South Dakota Lottery officials have details about the casinos and their owners at their fingertips but cannot release them."
"South Dakotans are quietly proud of the state's reputation for politeness and a willingness to help neighbors, friends and even strangers.
Run out of gas on a country road and you won't wait long until someone stops to offer help. Old people carrying groceries are usually aided by someone who opens a door or carries a bag or two to a car.
So it comes as something of a shock to hear the state is ranked 50th in integrity in a study by the Better Government Association. It ranked states based on government transparency, accountability, whistleblower protections, open records and campaign finance laws."
"Worried about protecting jurors' personal information, the South Dakota Supreme Court last week decided all records created during jury selection should not be available to the public unless the trial judge says otherwise.
Presiding circuit judges across the state proposed the change as they grew increasingly concerned about identity theft and the potential that someone would embarrass jurors by distributing their answers to sensitive questions."
"Up is down, black is white, and the state of South Dakota has a new Web site collecting copious amounts of public information.
OK, maybe that's a flip response to something that is in fact a real victory for free and open access to government: the state's new OpenSD Web site.
But South Dakota's record when it comes to government openness is not the best. The Legislature has yet to pass a truly comprehensive open records law - one that presumes openness and then lays out reasonable exceptions."