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Iowa’s government websites are ranked for “sunshine”

Iowa ranks toward the top of a new national study that grades the 50 states based on the information available on its government websites.

Kristin McMurray, editor of the Sunshine Review, says the criteria involve what she calls “common sense” items people would want to see on websites for city, county and state governments and for school districts.

“We look for the most current budget, budgets for the last three years, at a state level, we look at usability, how to contact elected officials, how to contact the executive branch, information on ethics investigations, audits, contracts,” McMurray says. “Public records turned out to be a really hard one to find information about.”

The government websites were graded, A to F, measuring available content available against a checklist of information all governments should provide to citizens. Iowa got a “B” grade overall and McMurray says Iowa’s government websites only lacked in a few areas.

“They were a little bit low on usability and we had problems with the search function,” she says. “They had trouble disclosing lobbying information. We look for state-funded lobbying but a lot of times you just can’t find information about it and that was one thing for Iowa — we could find no information.”

Transparency empowers citizens, she says, and people are entitled to crucial information on how public business is conducted and how public money is spent. Without this information, McMurray says, voters cannot hold government accountable.

The top five states on the list were: California, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington. The worst were: Mississippi, Nebraska, Kentucky, Alabama and South Dakota.

To read the report and see a state-by-state analysis with charts, visit:

http://www.kbizam.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/2013_Transparency_Report_Card.pdf