MN Gets “C” in Study of Open Gov’t Records

Minnesota fell in the middle of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

A study by the Sunlight Foundation rated the states for how easily legislative data can be gleaned from websites and gave Minnesota a “C” ranking.
 
Minnesota fell in the middle of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The final tally showed eight As, 11 Bs, 20 Cs, six Ds, and six Fs.
 
States getting As were:
 
· Arkansas
· Connecticut
· Georgia
· Kansas
· New Hampshire
· North Carolina
· Texas
· Washington
 
Those with Fs:
 
· Alabama
· Colorado
· Kentucky
· Massachusetts
· Nebraska
· Rhode Island
 
Researchers said they used six categories to compile the grades:
 
Completeness—We evaluated each state on the data collected by Open States: bills, legislators, committees, votes and events. We also took note if a state went above and beyond to provide this information and other relevant contextual information such as supporting documents, legislative journals and schedules. Points were deducted for missing data, often roll call votes.
 

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Timeliness—Legislative information is most relevant when it happens, and many states are publishing information in real time. Unfortunately, there are also states where updates are more infrequent and showing up days after a legislative action took place. States were dinged if data took more than 48 hours to go online.
 
Ease of Electronic Access—Common web technology such as Flash or JavaScript can cause problems when reviewing legislative data. We found that the majority of sites work fairly well without JavaScript, but some received lower scores due to being extremely difficult to navigate, impossible to bookmark bills, and in extreme cases, completely unusable.
 
Machine Readability—For many sites, the Open States team wrote scrapers to collect legislative information from the website code—a slow, tedious and error prone process. We collected data faster and more reliably when data was provided in a machine-readable format such as XML, JSON, CSV or via bulk downloads. If a state posted PDF image files or scanned documents, it received the lowest score possible.
 
Use of Commonly Owned Standards—This provision measured how a state made their bill text available. Making text available in HTML or PDF is the norm and was considered acceptable since any one could view them within a web browser. States that only make documents available in Microsoft Word or other text document format require the user to have (or purchase) the proper software to read the bill got a negative score.
 
Permanence—Many states move or remove information when a new session starts, leaving 404 pages and broken links where there was once bill text, resulting in a lower score. Most (but not all) states are good about at least preserving bill information. Few were equally as good about preserving information about out-of-office legislators and historical committees.