Transparency News 1/19/18

January 19, 2018
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state & local news stories
quote_1.jpgFollow the bills we follow on VCOG annual legislative chart.
The House and Senate each convene today at 10 a.m.

After that, you may want to watch a subcommittee that will hear several criminal law bills. On the docket is HB100, which would eliminate the provision that makes info about the drugs used in the lethal injection process, as well the pharmacies providing the drugs, confidential.

Subcommittees are live-streamed on Eyes on Richmond.

stories of national interest
The District has offered Inc. an incentives package that would far exceed the record-setting deal it offered to retain The Advisory Board Co. in a bid to win the Seattle-based firm's second headquarters. Among the perks, Amazon could qualify for relocation reimbursements of up to $7,500 per worker that moves to D.C. and wage reimbursements of up to $30,000 per new job it fills locally with military veterans; a five-year corporate franchise tax exemption capped at $15 million; a five-year freeze on property taxes on every building the e-commerce and cloud computing firm occupies in D.C. as long as Amazon occupies at least half of that building; a 10-year exemption on personal property taxes on qualified property and equipment; and a sales tax exemption in perpetuity on its investment in qualified new purchases. The incentives were revealed in a heavily redacted response to a Freedom of Information Act requestfiled by WAMU, which was obtained by the Washington Business Journal.
Washington Business Journal

A year into Donald Trump’s presidency, records show five of his top staffers still have not secured final approval of their financial reports — disclosures that are required by law to ensure Americans that these senior officials aren’t personally benefiting from their White House jobs. Another four staffers received certification by the Office of Government Ethics after McClatchy first requested their forms last month.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is extending by 90 days his unusual effort to clear the State Department’s huge backlog of public records requests—a project that has saddled some career diplomats and civil servants with mundane clerical tasks that they call demoralizing and possibly even designed to make them quit. The decision was announced in a Jan. 5 email to State officials that was shown to POLITICO. It comes as conservative groups such as Judicial Watch continue to press the department to release more of former Secretary of State’s Hillary Clinton’s emails under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. Tillerson first announced what the department is calling a “FOIA Surge” in mid-October, characterizing it as part of his commitment to transparency, but many State staffers suspect the effort is actually related to Clinton’s emails. State staffers were told that Tillerson wanted to clear a backlog of some 13,000 open records requests by the end of 2017. Many State officials called that goal implausible, even with dozens of extra State employees from other departments assigned to expedite the process. They were correct.

Since President Donald Trump took office, Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed by individuals and organizations seeking federal government information have risen by 26 percent, an overall increase of 70 percent from just five years ago. This is according to new data released Monday by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse's (TRAC) FOIA Project. The Freedom of Information Act allows those seeking government information to file suit seeking to have their FOIA requests answered if an agency denies the request or fails to respond to it within 20 working days.
The Washington Free Beacon