Tags : state government

Analysis shows shortcomings in N.J. tax incentives

When states suffered severe job losses during the recession, many responded by pouring money into tax incentive programs.

Most states offer a litany of incentives targeted for different types of companies. Some are meant to lure employers from neighboring jurisdictions, while others fund expansions of existing businesses.

Our story focused on New Jersey, which had recently issued multiple high-profile awards.

The data analysis attempted to answer two questions. First, we needed to gauge the extent to which the state increased its tax incentive awards. I also wanted to examine how the deals played out and whether any companies later cut ...

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IRE Board of Directors calls for Wisconsin lawmakers to halt action against Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Since its launch four years ago, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has distinguished itself as a vital public-interest voice, producing original, hard-hitting reporting that has been published in more than 230 news outlets reaching more than 25 million people.

 It is an extraordinary accomplishment for a small, non-profit newsroom created to revitalize in-depth reporting in the state, enrich public debate and better inform citizens at a time when investigative reporting faces ever increasing economic challenges.

 A surprise move this week by the Wisconsin legislature to remove the Center from its offices at the University of Wisconsin and ban any ...

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NY opens millions of records on state data portal

New York State this week announced the addition of millions of records to the state’s data transparency website, open.ny.gov, which launched during Sunshine Week of 2011. New York’s is one of 39 state open data sites, according to data.gov. At least 39 county and city governments have similar portals.

The records span multiple state agencies and include, according to the news release, includes the following records:

  • Campaign Contributions, Expenditures, and Committees: Over seven million
       records of campaign contributions and expenditures dating back to 1999,
       along with a complete list of candidate committees registered with the ...
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Supreme Court says Virginia can limit FOIA to state residents

The U.S. Supreme Court decided unanimously today that the state of Virginia had the power to restrict public records access to residents of that state. Virginia limits freedom of information requests to its own residents and certain media outlets.

The case reached the court after Rhode Island resident Mark J. McBurney and California resident Roger W. Hurlbert sued Virginia for blocking access to public documents that an in-state resident could obtain.

They contended that the state’s practice violated the Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause and its Commerce Clause. The court ruled that Virginia’s FOIA law  “does ...

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Behind the Story: An information gap in child abuse cases

There were signs of problems before 15-year-old Jeanette Maples died of starvation and abuse in Oregon in December 2009.  Although child services had been involved in the case, residents were shocked to find that Maples death had not been prevented.  Oregonian reporter Michelle Cole wanted to know what, if anything, could have been done to change the circumstances.  Through her investigation of the case, she uncovered problems with child welfare services that extend outside of Oregon and into national child welfare regulations.  The deficient child abuse monitoring system continues to affect cases across the United States.  

In Maples case, child ...

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Data viz helps show governor’s travels

The story started as a hand-me-down from my colleague Bill Lueders, the Center’s Money and Politics Project director. He got a year’s worth of Gov. Scott Walker’s official calendars then gave them to me, the data geek.

Sure, the records included that well-publicized February 2011 prank call from a blogger who was pretending to be David Koch, a major campaign supporter. But that wasn’t a narrative. There were no Mark Sanford-like sallies; there were a lot of redactions. Our colleagues at the Wisconsin State Journal, writing about these same records, had largely focused on their sparseness ...

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KHOU: Drinking water test results lowered by Texas water regulators

Many Texans had no idea that carcinogenic radiation was in their tap water.

For decades, the environmental agency that was supposed to protect the public from pollution had been deliberately changing radiation test data for water systems.

Not only had false data been reported to consumers, but the "lowballing" also allowed water providers to avoid breaking federal safe drinking water rules.

This all began when KHOU I-team member Keith Tomshe noticed a disclaimer on his water bill stating that small amounts of arsenic, also a carcinogen, had been found in his neighborhood’s drinking water. The disclosure is called a ...

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Award winner: Missing gas-escrow payments uncovered with data matches

For 20 years, an obscure Virginia regulatory board has forced thousands of landowners to lease their mineral rights to private energy corporations.

The corporations who drain natural gas belonging to landowners are required to pay them royalties. But whenever conflicts arise over gas ownership, the Virginia Gas and Oil Board places royalties into escrow accounts. Landowners receive no accounting of these royalties and cannot collect them without clearing enormous legal hurdles. Only two state employees monitor payments into the escrow, which now contains $25 million and has never undergone a compliance audit.

When I started my reporting, I wanted to ...

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The data behind "Toxic Waters"

Assessing the health of the nation's water is a daunting task, and the subject of an ongoing New York Times series called "Toxic Waters." It can't be done through data alone, but there is plenty of data available, particularly at the federal level. But working with it proved to be a difficult and occasionally frustrating task. Here's the story behind the database that we built for our readers.

Records describing enforcement of the Clean Water Act can be found at the federal level and among dozens of states that have authority to administer some or all of ...

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Homemade database boosts disciplined nurses probe

California's Board of Registered Nursing oversees more licensees, some 350,000, than any state nursing agency in the country. It is responsible for ensuring that nurses at patients' bedsides are not only competent, but sober, sane and law-abiding. So when we became suspicious that the board was fumbling its duties, leaving members of the public at risk, we wanted to ground our reporting in more than anecdotes, although those were rich and plentiful. Figuring out how to do this proved both time-consuming and hugely rewarding.

We first became interested in the board after we spent much of 2003 and ...

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