Transparency News 2/21/18

February 21, 2018
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state & local news stories
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This morning, a House subcommittee defeated a bill that would have required local governments and school divisions over a certain size to post online -- on a quarterly basis -- their checkbook level data. There was no requirement on the format (Goochland posts this information month using Excel spreadsheets) and it didn't require posting of information that would be exempt by FOIA or other statute. Arguments against the bill focused on the cost and staff time, that it was an unfunded mandate, that it would divert resources from classroom instruction, that there could be software glitches and that the data could be accessed by hackers (Russians were mentioned). Speaking against the bill were Loudoun and Frederick Counties, the cities of Hampton and Manassas, VML, VACO, the school boards association and the superintendents association. The motion to advance the bill did not receive a second, so it died.

Del. Jason Miyares worked several jobs in college at James Madison University and graduated in 1998 with little debt. Tuition in Virginia has increased 74 percent from 2006 to 2016, and Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, knows the times you could work your way through college are over. Bills to cap tuition increases have all been killed or tabled for "study" in the General Assembly this year. Miyares carried the last bill that advocates thought could help: A requirement that college governing boards provide the public with a chance to comment at a board meeting prior to a vote to raise tuition and fees. The bill, backed by the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, passed the House of Delegates 99-0. It was also supported by a new organization called Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust. In a bad omen for the bill, it was sent to the Finance Committee in the Senate. This is the committee to which bills with a fiscal impact on the state are referred, or bills lawmakers simply want to kill. Since requiring university trustees to hold a public comment period doesn't cost anything, in the case of Miyares' bill it apparently was sent to Finance for the latter reason.
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Ten other states require public comment before raising tuition, Miyares said. Dozens of Virginia boards from the milk commission to the board of aviation have public hearings. “But nothing has impact on Virginia families like the decisions of college and universities,” Miyares said. Both representatives for the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary said they don’t oppose getting input, but said they give plenty of opportunities throughout the year. Betsey Daley, U.Va.’s representative, said the board members, president and other officials’ emails are easily accessible online. The student representative on the Board of Visitors also holds meetings on the issue and is “very aware of the sentiment and mood.”
The Virginian-Pilot

Bringing government further into the digital age, the General Assembly has given final approval to two bills aimed at modernizing how members of city councils, school boards and other public bodies attend and hold meetings using electronic technologies. HB 906 and HB 908 make it easier for public officials and citizens to attend meetings remotely and restrict public officials from texting each other during meetings. Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, introduced both bills.
Southwest Times
national stories of interest
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is urging a Connecticut judge to unseal two court records related to the sentencing of a man convicted of sex trafficking a minor and possessing heroin with intent to distribute. The Reporters Committee argued on behalf of The Day that keeping the documents sealed violates the public’s presumptive right of access to court records under the First Amendment and common law. A right to access records in criminal trials, including pre- and post-trial documents and court proceedings, has been recognized in several U.S. Supreme Court cases.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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Virginia Credit Union House
editorials & columns
quote_3.jpg"In today’s environment, speech is viewed as a contributor to problems, not a pathway to solutions."
It’s an ongoing news story with more questions than answers. Early Saturday morning about 1:15, two officers with the Lynchburg Police Department driving down Link Road saw something they considered suspicious: an open front door at a house in the 2100 block. For the sake of the LPD and the Lynchburg community, we hope the state police investigation moves to completion as quickly as possible. And once it’s complete, we also hope — and expect — complete transparency from the LPD, Chief Raul Diaz and city leadership. The public and the news media should also be given the names, ranks and job histories of the two officers who shot Sigler sooner rather later. Earlier this year, in an officer-involved shooting in Danville, the Danville Police Department stuck to a policy put in place more than a decade ago by retired Chief Phillip Broadfoot and released the officer’s name within three days of the incident.
The News & Advance

If you believe in American freedoms, restrictions on speech should make you nervous. As Thomas Jefferson and James Madison knew, in a well-run democracy free speech is how we reach mutual understanding. It’s how we solve our problems. But in today’s environment, speech is viewed as a contributor to problems, not a pathway to solutions. So the impulse is to throttle speech, and throttle alternative viewpoints — thereby short-circuiting mutual understanding.
The Daily Progress