Transparency News 5/9/14

Friday, May 9, 2014

State and Local Stories
NOTE: VCOG’s records management & FOIA workshop scheduled for June 4 has moved from its original location at the Free Lance-Star to the campus of Mary Washington University, which is also in Fredericksburg. We’ll be in COMBS HALL, Room 139. Same date, time and program, just different location. Many thanks to the Free Lance-Star and the City of Fredericksburg for helping me find an alternate location, and to University Relations at UMW for hosting us.

An audit of Tuesday's election has reversed the outcome in a tightly contested School Board race. Tuesday's unofficial election results gave Rick Jones Jr. a 47-vote lead over Gary B. Hunter in the city-wide race for the School Board's at-large seat. But the city Electoral Board's canvas turned up discrepancies in about half a dozen precincts, according to Mary "Tommie" Doxey, secretary of the three-person, court-appointed board. After correcting those errors and checking those precinct totals twice, the board determined that Hunter prevailed, she said.
Daily Press

A federal judge yesterday denied former Gov. Bob McDonnell's request that he wait until 14 days before the trial to decide whether to separate his case from his wife's. "In the course of briefing the motion to sever, defendants have requested that the court delay resolution of the motion to sever until fourteen (14) days before trial," Judge James R. Spencer wrote in a terse order filed today.
Times-Dispatch       National Stories

When Robert James Campbell is executed next week for the 1991 kidnapping and murder of a Houston bank teller, a health care professional will inject him with pentobarbital, the drug Texas has relied on since 2012. That much about how drugs are used in Texas executions is known from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s 10-page “Execution Procedure” document. But details about how and where the agency obtained the drug and how much it has left are shrouded in secrecy, along with information about alternative drugs the prison system has on hand for use in executions should the supply of pentobarbital dwindle. Lawyers have zeroed in on Texas' secrecy in the aftermath of a botched execution in neighboring Oklahoma, raising questions about whether the lack of information about how the death penalty is implemented could lead to cruel and unusual punishment. But TDCJ officials contend they are not being secretive and that they are protecting the pharmacies that supply the drugs needed for executions.

The New Jersey special legislative committee probing Bridgegate has subpoenaed documents from Mike DuHaime, the top strategist to Gov. Chris Christie. “The subpoena is part of the committee’s continued, bipartisan investigation into the lane closings and apparent abuse of government power,” committee officials said in a statement. “The committee will follow the facts to get the truth so that the people of New Jersey get the answers they deserve.”

Perennial candidate Harley Brown's rough manner of speaking has prompted Idaho Public Television to use a 30-second delay in the live May 14 debate among four GOP candidates for governor. Moderator Melissa Davlin said Thursday that the delay will be tested during Sunday's debate between 2nd District GOP Congressman Mike Simpson and Idaho Falls lawyer Bryan Smith to be sure producers can bleep any profanity. Davlin noted that the statewide network could be subject to fines by the Federal Communications Commission for airing profanity. "I've heard that he's been cussing (at campaign appearances)," Davlin said of Brown.
Idaho Statesman Editorials/Columns

There has been no shortage of reports about the perils of information overload. It wouldn't be surprising if Congress itself had ordered such a report, given its members' propensities toward requiring information to be compiled but never bothering to review it. As The Washington Post recently reported, members of Congress have ordered, through force of law, the submission of so many reports on so many topics over so many years that lawmakers themselves don't even know how many reports - or on which topics - to expect in a given year. It's a critical component of Washington's pretense of transparency and openness, burying useful or surprising information under an avalanche of bureaucratic verbiage and defensive obfuscation.

America has a funny history balancing government and religion. “In God We Trust” is printed on our currency – Which God? Whose God? – yet the U.S. Constitution clearly dictates separation of church and state. So why would our government put “God” on the money it prints, the most tangible, useful reminder that government exists? This one’s a pickle. The U.S. Supreme Court took a stab at the issue of church and state with their recent ruling that prayer before city council meetings in Greece, N.Y. was not unconstitutional, even though the prayers offered were confined to the Christian faith. The argument against Greece was that government serves all people – not just Christians – and if prayer is a part of government proceedings then the municipality should take pains to be as inclusive as possible of all faiths. In siding with Greece, the Supreme Court pointed to our country’s history of, well, not doing that.