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True to reputation, Minnesota ranks ‘above average’ — this time, on ‘good government’ issues

Minnesota is listed 15th in an evaluation of the 50 states for strength of their laws relating to transparency, ethics and accountability in government. The 2008 rankings were released today by The Better Government Association.

As usual, we’re above average.

Called the BGA-Alper Integrity Index, it rates the performance of the states in five areas of law: open records, whistleblower protections, campaign finance, open meetings, and conflicts of interest.

The top five states in this edition of the Integrity Index are, in order: New Jersey, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Washington and Louisiana.

At the bottom of the rankings, in order, from the worst:  South Dakota, Vermont, Alabama, Tennessee and Montana.

Minnesota ranked 15th among all 50 states overall.  By issue area, Minnesota ranked 17th in open records laws; 24th in whistleblower laws; eighth in campaign finance laws; seventh in open meeting laws; and 39th in conflict-of-interest laws. Despite its No. 15 overall ranking, Minnesota achieved a modest 57 percent overall score.

“Minnesota should be congratulated that it beat out thirty-five other states,” said BGA Executive Director Jay Stewart. “However, there is clearly a lot of room for improvement.  If you look at the percentage score, Minnesota received 57%, the equivalent of an F letter grade, hardly a cause for celebration.”

In a news release, Stewart said, “These laws are representative of a state’s responsiveness to its citizens, and its commitment to maintaining ethics in government. Just as the fifty states compete to see which one is the most business-friendly, they should also compete over their respective commitment to governmental integrity.”

The Integrity Index relies on data compiled and reviewed through 2007 and early 2008. Most information was collected by the BGA, which also created the scoring system for four of the five laws. The BGA relied on the work of the Center for Public Integrity in regard to conflict of interest laws.

The BGA reviewed the relevant state laws and created a point-scale scoring system for each one. The better the law, the higher the point total and score in each category and overall. Scoring was generally based on limits to campaign contributions, the presence and depth of transparency laws, and strict penalties for violations of ethics rules.

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