Transparency News 1/11/19



January 11, 2019

Follow the bills that VCOG follows on our annual legislative bill chart.


state & local news stories




On a 7-1 vote, a House General Laws subcommittee advanced a bill that would shield from public disclosure the names of $10 million lottery winners without their consent. VCOG and the Virginia Press Association testified against the bill, noting important news stories (including one in Virginia) that used lottery records -- including the names of winners -- to expose lottery manipulation. Del. Lee Ware (R), the bill's sponsor, cited the safety concerns of the winners. A similar bill -- sponsored by Del. David Reid (D) -- was defeated on a party-line vote. The bill (HB1650) moves on to the full General Laws Committee. There are two more lottery-name bills in the Senate.

stories of national interest

Thousands of requests by men to bring in child and adolescent brides to live in the United States were approved over the past decade, according to government data obtained by The Associated Press. In one case, a 49-year-old man applied for admission for a 15-year-old girl. The approvals are legal: The Immigration and Nationality Act does not set minimum age requirements. And in weighing petitions for spouses or fiancees, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services goes by whether the marriage is legal in the home country and then whether the marriage would be legal in the state where the petitioner lives.
The Journal Times

The Georgia ethics commission suspended its director with pay Tuesday amid allegations that he misused state computers. After an hourlong executive session, the commission voted to suspend Ritter, based, as Chairman Jake Evans said, "upon the allegations of improper workplace conduct." Evans will oversee an investigation and hire outside counsel to look into the complaints made against Ritter. The agency, formally known as the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission, is charged with collecting campaign finance, vendor gift and lobbying expenditure reports, registering lobbyists, issuing advisory opinions, and dispensing penalties for violations.

A federal judge in Iowa says it's no longer a crime to go undercover at factory farms, slaughterhouses and any other ag-related operations. The 2012 law was a clear violation of the First Amendment, the judge said. Iowa created the crime of "agricultural production facility fraud" shortly after several investigations "brought critical national attention to Iowa's agricultural industry," wrote James Gritzner, senior judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. Iowa is one of the nation's largest producers of livestock. Gritzner cited multiple undercover investigations of Iowan industrial farms, which found workers had thrown pigs against the floor, or burned off the beaks of hens without painkillers. At least some of those investigations were carried out by people who took the jobs in order to expose mistreatment of animals, Gritzner said.

Kentucky state Sen. Danny Carroll said he will withdraw a controversial bill critics had said would gut the state open records law. Carroll, a Paducah Republican, said he plans to withdraw the bill Wednesday because of concerns raised by the Kentucky Press Association and others familiar with open records laws over its impact on access to public information. Carroll, a former police officer, said that he filed Senate Bill 14 in an attempt to protect personal information of police, firefighters, judges and some other public employees and that it was never his intent to limit access to most public records.
Louisville Courier Journal

Portland (Oregon) Public Schools will pay an additional $105,000 to cover legal fees in a dispute that began when the district refused to release the names of staffers it had put on paid leave, the school board decided Tuesday. That puts the total bill for the district-initiated lawsuit at just over $277,000, which is 38 percent higher than the district estimated in October. In 2016, journalist Beth Slovic, then writing for The Portland Tribune, and parent Kim Sordyl requested a list of staffers the district had on paid leave. The district denied the request, though it had provided the records in the past.
The Oregonian