Gov. Dennis Daugaard this week continues the streak of making South Dakota's financial data more transparent. Daugaard signed an executive order "requiring the regular release of state revenue, expenses and cash balance data," according to the Associated Press. The AP writes:
Daugaard has been getting paper versions of the reports every month. He says the figures help him monitor the strength of the state's finances.
His staff says the reports may prove useful to legislators, journalists and curious members of the public.
As we've written here before, South Dakota does well — and continues to improve — on making state budget and fiscal data transparent. In fact, we scored a B+ by no less than U.S. PIRG on the transparency of our state financial records.
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There seems to be a consensus in South Dakota now that making budget and spending data transparent is good for our state and our democracy.
So why doesn't that line of reasoning extend to law enforcement data like 911 call transcripts and police reports? Why doesn't that reasoning extend to the emails of government employees? Why doesn't that reasoning extend to releasing autopsy reports?
Police incident reports and autopsies have been used to discover shoddy police investigations. Public employee emails have revealed instances of sexual harassment that local government wanted to keep quiet. And public autopsies have also helped uncover cases of doctor malpractice, prescription drug abuse, and trade in human body parts.
Why won't lawmakers and executives embrace the good these open records could bring? This, then, is the elephant in South Dakota's metaphorically dark room.