Sunshine? PA grades out cloudy

Remember getting a C on your report card?

It was usually an OK grade, not one to display with pride.

That’s the grade Pennsylvania received this week in a new analysis from the Sunlight Foundation which presented its “Transparency Report Card” on how well state legislative information is made available to the public.

Using data collected from its Open States project, the foundation created the report card as a way to examine factors such as how well a state posts online information about its bills, lawmakers, roll call votes and related documents.

The foundation also looked at the timeliness of the posted information and the ease of access.

Along with 19 other states, Pennsylvania earned a C, the kind of ranking that gives parents permission to bug their children about getting their grades up. In this case, the state’s C gives taxpayers permission to ask for improvements. After all, nine states were able to score an A and 10 states scored a B.

PA Independent has identified some improvements that could help Pennsylvania earn a higher ranking on its next report card.

Over the last several months, the state’s General Assembly website has undergone some user-friendly makeovers, including co-sponsorship memo postings and easy-to-access committee agendas.

And in December, the state launched PennWATCH, a web database of department-by-department spending, including staff salaries.

Previously, Pennsylvania improved its reputation with open government advocates by rewriting its Right-to-Know Law in 2008 which created the Office of Open Records.

The law has drawn critics for what it makes available and what it doesn’t make available, but it remains the public’s valuable access route to governmental records that used to be off-limits.

While this year’s designated National Sunshine Week ends Saturday, the quest for transparency in government goes on.