News: CJ Exclusives

How nearby states compare in transparency to North Carolina

It’s nothing new.

Reporters, government accountability activists, and residents often grapple with government institutions, which can be slow to respond to and or even hostile toward any attempt to shine light on their operations.

Some states have taken steps toward transparency, yet others have seemingly doubled down on restrict people’s right to know.

As part of Sunshine Week, an initiative by news organizations to highlight open record and public meeting access nationwide, Carolina Journal looked at how North Carolina’s neighbors handled government transparency.

Here’s what we learned: 

  • Virginia: Only residents of the commonwealth or media with a circulation in the state can request public records. This is unlike North Carolina, where non-residents can request public information. Virginia has live webcasts for proceedings in the House and the Senate, as well as live webcasts of committee hearings. The state also keeps archived webcasts of past committee hearings and floor proceedings. The Virginia Coalition for Open Government releases a monthly Sunshine report that tracks bills related to public records, open meetings, and other related transparency issues. 
  • South Carolina: People have access to live and archived webcasts for the House and Senate floor proceedings, as well as access to live and archived videos of committee hearings. South Carolina also broadcasts the House and Senate when in session. Anyone in South Carolina can make a records request without including a statement of purpose. Confidential attorney communications, income tax returns, and certain business transactions are exempt from the open records law.
  • Georgia: People can watch live or archived videos of House and Senate floor proceedings, as well as live webcasts of committee hearings. People can also watch the Georgia Public Broadcast, which covers the House and Senate when in session. Regarding, public records laws, an agency in Georgia has three days to respond to a request by either releasing the request documents or citing a reason for a refusal. In the wake of the federal bribery probe into former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, the city created the Atlanta’s Open Checkbook. The tool makes the city’s expenditures publicly available.