- Associated Press - Thursday, January 8, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - A new website conceived by the governor is designed to give South Dakotans more information about the inner workings of state government, though future leaders could reverse course because the public access isn’t written into law.

The goal of the Boards and Commissions Portal is to provide a central hub for many of the more than 100 boards and commissions that are appointed by the governor. Minutes, information on members and upcoming meetings are among the items on the site, https://boardsandcommissions.sd.gov .

Gov. Dennis Daugaard proposed the idea after he couldn’t easily find such information, said Grace Kessler, director of constituent services in his office. The state built the site as part of his mission to streamline government and promote openness, she said.

“It’s not always intuitive for people outside of government to know where they should look for that information,” Kessler said.

“For example, they might not know the real estate commission falls under the Department of Labor,” she said.

Daugaard also put online in 2013 a website that consolidated previous and pending administrative rules, https://rules.sd.gov.

And the administration of former Gov. Mike Rounds started posting financial information about state government, including contracts, budget items and salaries, on another website, https://open.sd.gov .

Dave Bordewyk, general manager of the South Dakota Newspaper Association, said the sites represent progress in making government information more accessible, though none of them are in law.

“Maybe the next governor won’t keep this up or do something different. It’s a good step. But, on the other hand, it’s done by initiative and not by statute,” he said.

Bordewyk said the state is also “weak in open government” because of the numerous records that can be maintained as confidential and aren’t required to be made public.

“That’s an area we have a long ways to go to shore up and make government more open in South Dakota. In our open meetings laws, we have weaknesses there, as well, that need to be improved,” he said.

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