Government Transparency

Marketplace

City officials in Sandpoint are defending banning the public from a meeting about oil and coal train traffic attended by three area mayors, a state senator, county commissioner and officials from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

Sandpoint Mayor Carrie Logan tells the Bonner County Daily Bee that the meeting Thursday was for information only and no actions were taken.

Idaho Capitol Dome
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Public records from Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's office show that an executive order creating a new public records ombudsman had to be scaled back at the last minute over concerns it could step on existing law.

Otter issued the executive order late last month, naming Cally Younger the new ombudsman and calling on her to create an annual report detailing public record requests and denials. The move was in response to a request from the Newspaper Association of Idaho, which wanted an option to appeal denied requests without going to court.

Idaho Capitol Dome
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has appointed a public records ombudsman to review how state agencies handle records requests and to look at ways to improve Idaho's public records laws.

Cally Younger, the associate attorney for the governor's office, is filling the post, Otter announced Wednesday.

government transparency, map
U.S. PIRG

Idaho is one of three states with a failing grade when it comes to government transparency, as ranked by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer interest group.

Tim Hurst, lobbying
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Late last year, St. Louis Public Radio and NPR launched an interactive data project that lets Missouri voters see just how much money their state representative has accepted from lobbyists. It's an easy-to-navigate visual that gives people a sense of the kinds of relationships that have developed under their Capitol dome. A similar one-stop-shop of lobbying disclosure info wouldn't be possible in Idaho.

The issue of tax transparency in Washington is getting fresh attention on the heels of a major tax deal for Boeing.

A group of Idaho Department of Juvenile Correction employees who filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the state say the agency is violating a judge's order to meet and decide which documents should be made public.

Board members of the Idaho health insurance exchange said Tuesday that they will keep secret the findings of a $15,000 taxpayer-funded investigation into how one of its own members won a lucrative no-bid contract.

Your Health Idaho board chairman Stephen Weeg said the two-week-long review by a private lawyer uncovered "lapses in judgment," though nothing illegal. Exchange executive director Amy Dowd last month awarded a technology contract worth up to $375,000 to board member Frank Chan, who quit the same day the contract was announced.

Idaho insurance exchange leaders trimmed the Internet marketplace director's power to sign lucrative deals with vendors after criticizing her move to award a former board member a no-bid contract worth up to $375,000.

Your Health Idaho executive director Amy Dowd now must get the board's permission for any transaction over $15,000.

Beyond this strict new limit, exchange board members voted Tuesday to sever ties with Frank Chan, the former board member who got the contract.

A federal judge presiding over an antitrust lawsuit between two major health care providers in Idaho has declared that testimony and documents can remain hidden from public view.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled Tuesday after the Idaho Statesman and other news organizations challenged the broad shroud of secrecy approved for documents and trial testimony.

Idaho news organizations are seeking to open court proceedings to the public by intervening in a lawsuit between two big health care providers.

On Wednesday, The Idaho Statesman in Boise, The Times-News in Twin Falls, The Associated Press, the Idaho Press-Tribune in Nampa and the Idaho Press Club asked U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill reverse a pretrial order closing the courtroom to some testimony.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

A federal judge has sided with a coalition of 17 Idaho news organizations in denying a request by the state's only private prison contractor to seal whatever it wants in a lawsuit brought by a group of inmates at the prison. 

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge issued an order Tuesday that significantly scales back a broad protection order sought by the Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise.

Private prison company Corrections Corporation of America is asking a federal judge to deny a request from Idaho news organizations to keep documents open in a lawsuit over conditions at a CCA-run prison.

Three Idaho school districts and a county have been honored for their websites. The non-profit government transparency organization Sunshine Review gave its annual Sunny Awards to the 247 government websites it deemed most transparent.  

The Boise, Blaine County and Caldwell School Districts made the list. Canyon was the only Idaho county to show up.

Transparent Idaho
Transparent.Idaho.gov / State Controller's Office

In an effort to become more transparent, the state of Idaho has launched a new website that details state spending and revenue. Transparent.Idaho.gov was created by the state controller’s office, after the state continually received failing grades on its openness.

Last year during ‘sunshine week,’ StateImpact Idaho reported on two separate transparency report cards — one gave Idaho an "F", the other a “D-".

Transform Solar

Every state, including Idaho, offers tax breaks, grants or subsidies to businesses in hopes of spurring economic development.

But the states vary widely in terms of what they do when a company doesn’t create as many jobs as it agreed to, or otherwise follow through with its end of the incentive bargain.

Chris Butler / Idaho Statesman

Last month, Transform Solar announced that it was closing and laying off about 250 people at its facility in Nampa. As StateImpact reported, the manufacturer of high-tech solar cells, had received $1.68 million in workforce training grants from the state of Idaho — money that the company will not have to pay back.

Transform Solar

Earlier this week, Micron-owned Transform Solar, a maker of high-tech solar cells, announced it’s closing and laying-off at least 250 people over the next three months.

Pew Center on the States

A recent report from Pew Center on the States lists Idaho among 26 states ‘trailing behind when it comes to evaluating tax incentives.  That is, having a mechanism in place to take a closer look at the state-specific incentives and exemptions on a regular basis, and to evaluate if they’re doing what they were intended to do.  In most cases, that’s spurring economic growth and

401K / Flickr

StateImpact Idaho has rolled out a series of stories this week on tax incentive transparency in Idaho.  That is, what is and isn’t public information when it comes to business tax credits and exemptions. 

Almost always, tax incentives are created in the name of economic development.  But in Idaho, little information is available about whether these incentives create jobs and grow companies. 

Scott Graf talks with StateImpact reporter Emilie Ritter Saunders about the lack of transparency surrounding Idaho's business tax incentives. 

Pages