Transparency News 12/17/13

Tuesday, December 17, 2013
State and Local Stories


After the first day of the recount in Virginia’s election for attorney general, Democrat Mark R. Herring appeared to have widened his narrow lead over Republican Mark D. Obenshain with a net gain of 91 votes in Fairfax County, officials said. The preliminary results injected another round of uncertainty into a race that Obenshain led on election night but that swung to Herring during the subsequent topsy-turvy days when election officials canvassed the tallies and discovered numerous errors. Volunteers labored away in three jurisdictions where recounting began Monday in the closest statewide election in Virginia history. While most of the state will start counting Tuesday, Fairfax started Monday because of its large size — and Alexandria and Chesapeake did so because their voting equipment requires them to recount ballots by hand.
Washington Post

A Jan. 30, 2014, court date has been set for lawyers to debate whether the city legally approved $10 million in bonds meant to back The Falls commercial project. A judge and lawyers agreed on the date Monday afternoon during a closed hearing, in which the Bristol Herald Courier was twice denied access by court officials. Officiated in the backroom chambers of Judge Sage B. Johnson, the hearing was conducted as a teleconference between Bristol-based lawyers representing the city and a Roanoke-based lawyer representing the plaintiff.
Herald Courier

National Stories

A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency’s daily collection of virtually all Americans’ phone records is almost certainly unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon found that a lawsuit by Larry Klayman, a conservative legal activist, has “demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success” on the basis of Fourth Amendment privacy protections against unreasonable searches. Leon granted the request for an injunction that blocks the collection of phone data for Klayman and a co-plaintiff and orders the government to destroy any of their records that have been gathered. But the judge stayed action on his ruling pending a government appeal, recognizing in his 68-page opinion the “significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues.”
Washington Post

Government entities subject to Iowa’s open records laws should not be required to hand over information requested by the public within an absolute 20-day window, as some have argued, the Iowa Supreme Court concluded earlier this year. While the University of Iowa is citing the court’s decision in response to recent records requests, a UI official says the ruling won’t change the university’s approach in fulfilling as quickly as possible the hundreds of requests it receives from the media and public each year.

Americans hold car salespeople and members of Congress in higher esteem than lobbyists, who are perceived to have the lowest ethical values among workers in more than 20 professions, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. Only 6 percent of Americans rated lobbyists as having "very high" or "high" honesty and ethical standards. Ratings were 8 percent for members of Congress and 9 percent for car salespeople, rounding out the bottom of the list. Nurses received top marks with an 82 percent rating, followed by pharmacists and grade school teachers at 70 percent.
Blog of LegalTimes

Taxpayers filing appeals in Maine and Ohio are far better off than those doing so in California and Louisiana. That’s according to a report published Monday by the Council on State Taxation (COST)assessing a range of criteria on states’ tax appeals processes and procedural requirements. In its review of policies, COST reports some states have established more fair and effective systems than others. While relatively few taxpayers are audited, COST argues it’s crucial that they perceive a system to be balanced and fair.