By JMI President/CEO Bob McClure III, Ph.d., and JMI Researcher John Seibler
Today Florida lags many other states in governmental transparency. The relatively low ranking is doubly embarrassing because that’s a category in which the “Government in the SunshineState” ought to be a national leader. Although there has been some progress, much remains to be done ifFloridais to improve its standing.How far does Florida lag? A March 2012 ranking of all states gave Floridaa grade of D in transparency; that placed it behind 35 other states. A separate study placed Florida 18th among the states on a “corruption risk report card,” where Florida was said to lag in areas such as political financing, state pension fund management, budget processes, and public access to information. Whether or not all of those concerns are accurate, the perception is out there.Fortunately, however, the good work of remedying this situation is underway. That’s encouraging because transparency is not only a viable remedy for these perceived problems, but it’s a necessary component of any government that is truly accountable to its citizens. Indeed, it is the force by which the security of their rights is either known to them so they may act or else is at risk because of their lack of access to information.In Florida, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is promoting transparency – not only within his office but also within the state and federal governments. As he recently noted, “Transparency ensures accountability, and Floridians have a right to see how every penny of the money they send to their government is spent.”As part of that effort, Mr. Atwater’s office recently released FACTS: Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System. This website will provide information about state contracts, including all of the parties and dollar amounts involved. It will also provide similarly detailed information about state budgets, vendor payments, spending, cash balances, financial reports, and employee data. The FACTS website can be found here: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/transparency/.The James Madison Institute supports this program, along with our friends at The First Amendment Foundation (FAF), a non-profit organization whose mission is to advocate and promote the “public’s constitutional right to oversee its government through Florida’s Sunshine and Public Records Law.” The FAF has protected and advanced open government in Florida for more than 25 years, and it recently helped bring attention to “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” a report by JMI Resident FellowBill Mattoxconcerning governmental transparency in Florida’s cities, counties, and school districts. The FAF distributed this report during its media-heavy First Amendment Forum inTampain April, during the annual “Sunshine Week.”JMI will continue to fight for access to a transparent government for the people ofFlorida. The Institute not only provides resources on economic policy and philosophy, but constant, accurate, and substantive reports on events and issues throughout the state. JMI’s journalism branch, the Capitol Vanguard, is updated daily to provide timely information most relevant to the integral mission of JMI.
 Studies cited found here: http://www.uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/Following the Money vUS WEB.pdf (pg.29) and http://www.stateintegrity.org/florida