NLPES Question of the Month

March-April  2003


Ethel Detch, Tennessee

We distribute some reports of general interest to all legislators. Reports on very specialized topics just go to the relevant committees with an e-mail notification to all members as to where they can access it on the website and a number to call if they'd like a copy. We also send most education reports to members of the State Board of Education and the Directors of Schools across the state. Other reports are sent to all people interviewed during the project as well as anyone who has requested it. We also have a standing list of libraries, press people, etc. We deliver advance copies to the Speakers, Governor, affected agency head and the Comptroller. The number of copies printed varies--usually from 400 to 600. Our practices for mailing are the same in session or out of session. We have never charged for reports or limited the number of copies to legislators. Non-legislative requests are handled on a case-by-case basis. 

Heather Moritz, Colorado

Because our audit reports are confidential until our Legislative Audit Committee votes to release them to the public, we have two distribution policies, one covering "pre-release" reports and another covering "released" reports. Pre-release reports are distributed to our Legislative Audit Committee members prior to the public hearing and to agency officials during the report writing phase for purposes of responding to audit recommendations and obtaining input on the text of the audit report itself. We may also distribute pre-release audit reports to others who are in a "need to know" situation (e.g., board members, officials from agencies that may have played an auxiliary role in the audit but weren't the central subject of the review, other legislative service agencies like the Joint Budget Committee) to obtain input. Pre-release audit reports are subject to strict statutory confidentiality requirements and state law sets forth penalities for violating these requirements. The number of reports distributed for pre-release purposes varies depending upon the audit topic and the number of entities involved with the review. Pre-release reports may be distributed in either hard-copy or electronic format.

After our Legislative Audit Committee votes to release an audit report to the public, we conduct another distribution. Electronic methods are used to facilitate as much of this distribution as possible. We attempt to post all new audit reports on our Web site within a day or so of their release and then notify interested parties (e.g., legislators, NLPES) that the report is available electronically. This has allowed us to reduce the number of reports we print (typically less than 100), thus lowering our operating costs. Our office has never charged for copies of reports and does not limit the number of copies we will provide to individuals. Obviously, individuals may print as many copies as they like after accessing our reports via our Web site, which also helps keep our printing costs low. 

Beverly Romig-Kohl, Oregon

The Oregon Secretary of State Audits Division no longer sends hardcopies of released reports in a general mailing. The only exceptions are the governor (1 copy), the director of the Department of Administrative Services (1 copy), and the Oregon State Library (15 copies). Those recipients receive hardcopies because Oregon state regulations require it.

We also provide hardcopies to anyone who specifically requests one, which happens rarely, now, because our internet website makes access to released audit reports readily available. At this time, we do not have a limit allowed for requested hardcopies, although it has been discussed. At one time there was a minor charge for reports, but that practice was discontinued several years ago.

For most reports, we also print about 20 extra copies for internal office use and requests from walk-ins or by telephone. If a report is one that usually is in great demand, such as the Federal Compliance Report and Internal Control Report (the statewide audit), we have more than 20 printed; if the report is one that concerns few people, such as the Columbia River Gorge Commission, we print less.

Advance hardcopies or emailed pdfs are available only to the directors, internal auditors and other specified parties in the agencies audited and mentioned in the report.

When a report is released, we send a "mass emailing" notification to regular recipients on our report distribution list. Embedded in the email is a link to the pertinent page on our website, where a user can click on a link to bring up either a summary of the report or a pdf file of the entire report. Recipients of the email notification include state audit interested contacts at radio stations, local TV stations, and newspapers; the Division Administrator of the General Counsel Division at the Oregon Department of Justice; the Fiscal Impact Coordinator, Legislative Fiscal Office; the Deputy Fiscal Officer, Legislative Fiscal Office; the Deputy Secretary of State; members of the Legislative Audit Committee; the Majority Whip in the state senate, Democratic Leader in the senate, Republican Leader in the senate, House Minority Leader, House Majority Leader, Speaker of the House; and various financial administrators in state government. 

Ken Levine, Texas Sunset Commission

Unfortunately, we still must distribute hard copy reports. How low tech. We have, however, reduced the number we print and distribute, mostly as a result of web availability of our reports (as discussed in last month's Question of the Month). Many people call in and once they find out a report is on the web, choose to obtain it that way.

Our hard copies are first provided to the members of the Sunset Commission and the Speaker and Lt. Governor. Then, about two days later the report becomes public. We mail reports to anyone that has requested a copy, we provide a couple to the agency under review, and we are required to provide quite a few copies to the State library system. We generally print about 150 to 200 copies.

We notify all members of the Legislature by email of the issuance and availability of the report, including a web link to the report. For the most part, they do not ask for hard copies. Members of the public also request this email notification.

Basically, nobody asks for multiple copies, but we do have a charge for copies after the first copy. You didn't ask, but we have produced reports in alternate formats for people with disabilities. We do not do this regularly, but for an agency like the Commission for the Blind, we have had reports converted to Braille. 

Kent Hutchinson, Florida

The Florida Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) provides, free of charge, hard-copy versions of reports to anyone who asks for them. OPPAGA prints approximately 350 copies of each report and distributes them to the entity under review, all senators and representatives, substantive committee members and staff, appropriations committees and staff, members of the press, and anyone else listed on our distribution list. There is generally no limit to the number of copies that can be requested.

Reports provided to legislators are delivered to their offices in the Capitol Complex during session and to their district offices the rest of the year. All other copies are mailed to addressees as requested.

OPPAGA does not provide "advance" copies of reports, but does give legislative briefings on draft contents when requested. Preliminary and tentative drafts are delivered to entities under review. These drafts become public record upon delivery. 

Jane Thesing, South Carolina

The SC LAC policy on distribution of reports calls for all members (170) of the General Assembly to get a report summary (usually a 4-page document printed in-house) and the members who requested the audit to get a copy of the full report. Other copies go to the audited agency, other government officials and any member of the public who wants a copy. We have never charged for a report. Gradually, we have relied more on our website to make our reports available and lessened the number of paper copies we print. Formerly (up to 3 years ago) we printed a copy of the report for every member of the General Assembly and our print run was more than 300. Currently we print usually fewer than 100 copies of the full paper report; to meet our budget cuts, we printed just around 50 of our most recent reports. We have furnished unbound copies of reports to those who are interested in obtaining several copies, so that they might copy them more easily than if they were bound. As to advance copies, the audited agency has a final draft prior to publication, and at times "embargoed" copies have been supplied to members of the press prior to publication to facilitate reporting. 

Phil Durgin, Pennsylvania

We distribute hard-copy versions of all reports to each member of our committee, to each member of the 2-4 most relevant standing committees of both houses, to the Appropriation Committee chairs, the Governor, Lt. Governor, Auditor General and to about 10 others who have requested copies of all our reports. To all other members of the General Assembly and to about 20 others who have so requested, we send a one-page report summary and order form they can use to order a copy of the full report.

Confidential draft reports are sent to the audited agency at least two weeks in advance of release and to the members of our committee one week in advance. No other advance copies are allowed.

We do our own in-house printing (on a Xerox 5390, which is dated but still does a good job binding), so the number of reports we print varies widely depending on the demand. We do not charge for reports. We provide legislators with as many copies of the report as they request, although if they ask for more than about 20 I usually call; officially to be sure we understand their request but unofficially so they don't think we hand out the reports like candy.

We provide up to 10 copies (5 if it's a thick report) of the report free to anyone who asks. If we get a nonlegislative request for more than 5-10 copies, we usually call the requester to find out why they want so many. If it appears legitimate, meaning it's likely the persons they are sending the reports to will read or use them, we will provide up to as many as 50 copies. If they want to do something like hand them out to everyone who attends their association's annual meeting, I offer to provide them with the one-page summary/order form (like we use for the General Assembly) or tell them they need to request the copies through their legislator. Our general philosophy is that it doesn't make sense to spend a lot of money doing the study and then be stingy in distributing the report, but it also doesn't make sense to send reports to people who are unlikely to ever look at them. 

Jim Pellegrini, Montana

Administrative staff maintain a list of individuals and agencies who receive hard copies of our reports. Some are required to receive reports by law and others have requested the reports. Before the audit report is heard by the legislative audit committee copies are sent to the agency involved in the audit and to the audit committee members. We usually print between 75 and 150 copies of a report. Our procedures for distributing copies to legislators do not vary based upon being in session or out of session.

After each audit committee meeting we send a letter (checklist format with a brief explanation of the report) to all legislators on which they can indicate if they would like copies of the reports. They are also reminded that copies of the reports are available on-line. We have never charged for reports. And, the number of reports given to an individual is not limited. You wouldn't want to hinder the report going "Platinum". 

Tim Osterstock, Utah

Here in Utah we have what appears to be a fairly well defined distribution policy on paper but, in practice, is really a system driven by each individual report's demand. Our reports are usually given to Legislators with related committee assignments and interested parties but are available to all. We do maintain a mailing list of those who seem to always have an interest. Audited agencies will receive draft and final copies of reports prior to release and some members of the media, who agree to hold information untill after the release, can have embargoed copies of the final report. Smaller "special projects" will have initial printings of 100 and larger reports of broader interest will have initial printings of 400 copies. Statutorily, OLAG has been directed to distribute one copy per person free of charge. If they want more we are supposed to charge but, given that no fee has been set, we do not. Instead we have a very liberal interpretation of what constitutes one. For those who push our liberal policy to the extreme and see our reports as free birdcage liners we have our office administrative assistant; play it safe, don't go there. 

Sylvia Hensley, Alan Smith, and Tanya Elkins, California

To whom do you distribute reports? For each report the audit team completes a standard mailing list form, a comprehensive listing of every person to whom we will send a copy of the completed report and how we will transmit the report (e.g., hand-carry, Fed-Ex, or send it via US Mail). Typically, the list includes the head and selected personnel of the entity(ies) that was audited, the legislative member who requested the audit, legislative members who represent the districts affected by a report; and other people who provided critical information during the course of the audit. For example, if an advocacy group gave the audit team an important insight, then the person with whom the audit team spoke will most likely be placed on the mailing list. The mailing list also includes names of individuals who expressed a desire to receive a copy of the public report during the course of the audit.

Standard recipients also include: Legislative committees that might have an interest in the topic covered by the report; the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO); the Agency Secretary or Constitutional Officer over the entity audited (if applicable); State Boards or Commissions (if applicable); Press; select fiscal committees of the Legislature; California Research Bureau; members of our Joint Legislative Audit committee; and the editor who worked on the report.

Do all legislators receive copies? As indicated above, many, but not all, legislators receive a copy of our reports.

Does anyone receive "advance" copies, before the official release? No one receives advance copies of our audit reports. The reports are usually available by 9 a.m. the day the report is issued.

How many copies do you typically print? The number of copies varies by subject matter and overall interest. Generally, we start with 300 copies, and print more as needed. For example, we printed 1,300 copies of the report on our audit of the State's enterprise licensing agreement with Oracle.

Do you have differing practices for distributing copies to legislators (a) during the session, and (b) out of session? Yes. When in session, reports are delivered to the legislators' offices in the capitol. When out of session, reports are mailed to their district offices. However, whether they are in session or not, we send a

copy to both the capitol and district offices of the legislator(s) who requested the audit and those members whose districts were included in the audit or may be affected by it.

Do you ever charge for reports, or do you limit the number of copies you provide to individuals? A specified number of reports are provided to people on the mailing list and the general public at no charge. As a rule, the first five copies of each report are free and additional copies are $3 each. To defray duplication costs, we generally encourage those requesting a large number of reports to obtain a "camera ready" original for their own use. 

Maria Chun, Hawaii

To whom do you distribute reports? For official distribution -- the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, senate president, all state legislators, and affected/audited agenc(ies).

We also provide copies to the media, general public, and others upon request. However, we do try to encourage people to download copies from our Web site.

Do all legislators receive copies? Yes.

Does anyone receive "advance" copies, before the official release? Yes. The official distribution (see above) occurs one working day before the public release.

How many copies do you typically print? Depends on the number of audited agencies, but it could range anywhere from 100 to 150 for the initial run.

Do you have differing practices for distributing copies to legislators (a) during the session, and (b) out of session? No.

Do you ever charge for reports, or do you limit the number of copies you provide to individuals? No, but we do refer them to our Web site for the more recent reports. However, if the report is not posted, then we might provide one copy, and request that they make additional copies themselves. 

Joel Alter, Minnesota

Our report production practices changed dramatically this year, due to budget cuts. In previous years, we typically had 300-500 copies of reports printed prior to a report's release. This year, we have been getting about 200 copies-some copied in-house, and some sent to an outside printer.

All legislators receive copies of a 4-page executive summary of each program evaluation report. We often send full copies to audit commission members and selected key legislators, and we distribute full copies at hearings on the reports. We encourage members of the general public to access the web versions of the report, rather than getting hard copies. We sometimes get requests from agencies or the public for large numbers of reports. We've tried to limit the number of copies given to an individual to five; we have usually provided multiple copies to agencies (although I think we will now increasingly give agencies a clean copy from which they can make their own copies). We do not charge for our reports.

Until about a year ago, we provided advance copies of our program evaluations to all members of our audit commission, the affected agency, and selected other legislators (typically one day in advance). But, following numerous leaks to the press before the reports were issued, our audit commission decided that no advance copies would be given to legislators-including members of the audit commission. We still give several advance copies of the report to the agency.