NEWS FROM AROUND THE STATE
MARCH/JUNE 1999

Table of Contents

  1. MSU Government Documents Intranet Site Established
  2. Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry
  3. Michigan Ranks Last
  4. AG Offers Online Complaint Service
  5. Campaign Finance Reform?


(1) MSU Government Documents Intranet Site Established
By Becky Fox

Welcome to the Government Documents Intranet Site!

Soon after the Systems Office announced the creation of the Libraries Intranet, the Government Documents Library was asked to build one of the initial sites. Work on setting up the site began during the Spring Semester 1998. Although portions of the site are still under development, the site was basically completed by the end of that semester. Like all other similar sites, the site will be contiuously updated and expanded as time passes.

At present, the Government Documents Intranet provides detailed information about three major areas:

Take a look yourself by pointing your browser to
http://mainlib6.lib.msu.edu/htdocs/gd/index.htm.

The Government Documents Collections section includes a holdings summary; annual statistics; detailed information on each collection, including an explanation of the call number systems used; a list of current periodical titles with links to electronic versions; and maps of the reference collection and stacks.

For & About Government Documents Staff provides information about the staff; departmental goals and objectives; a page with links to web sites and resources of use to staff, including Government Printing Office rules and regulations, manuals, etc.; and staff procedures.

The For & About Government Documents Students section contains the student procedures manual, as well as student job descriptions, biographies, a photo album, and the monthly student newsletter.

Since Government Documents decided that all processing manuals would be moved to the web, a lot of thought went into developing a web version of the student procedures manual. Attention was paid to making the pages visually interesting as well as informative. To this end, task-specific interactive quizzes were created using JavaScript. When the quiz is taken, brief explanations and humorous graphics appear on the screen. Since students can change thier answers before submitting the quiz via email, the quizzes serve more as a learning tool than as a real quiz.

This is a large and complex web site. But, with the exception of the use of JavaScript for the interactive quizzes and the planned addition of image-mapped stacks and reference maps, it has been designed using basic techniques that anyone can master.

For more information, contact the site designer and manager, Becky Fox, Government Documents Library, Michigan State University Libraries, 100 Library, E. Lansing, MI 48824-1048; telephone: (517) 432-1735; e-mail: foxre@mail.lib.msu.edu.

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(2) Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry in the News

Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry
http://www.mipsor.state.mi.us
Direct
http://www.msp.state.mi.us
via Michigan State Police Web page

A master list of Michigan's 21,000 registered sex offenders which hit the world wide web recently has generated record online demand that at times overwhelmed the computer equipment set up to handle the site. At peak times during its first week of availability, over 30 hits per second were being recorded.

That clamor has reached another level as people peeked at the home page and then reached for their telephones, hoping to chat with the keepers of the list.

Sometimes it's the offenders, complaining that the wrong offense was being listed. Sometimes it was the public saying that the results and the zip codes did not match. However, the most frequent response has been the public wanting to know more about the names they've found.

According to the Lansing State Journal, they want to know who the victims were and the dates of conviction, information that the Michigan State Police cannot supply.

The registry--organized by zip codes--gives the person's name, address, and the crime he or she committed. It is made public through a law that first made the list available at police departments statewide in April 1997.

The web page is not without controversy however. Sponsors say that people need the information to protect themselves and their children. Critics like the American Civil Liberties Union say the list is bound to stir up trouble with vigilantes harassing violators, who have already paid for their crimes. In addition, a few juvenile's names have appeared on the list by mistake.

And then there's the question of accuracy. Not all violators keep their information up-to-date although they are required by law to report changes of address.

The registry includes offenders who were convicted or on parole as of October 1, 1995. Their names will remain on the list for 25 years unless the conviction is overturned. The names of repeat offenders will remain on the list for life.

For More Information

The Michigan State Police will provide an individual's criminal history for $5. You will need the sex, full name, race, and birth date, all included on the sex offender list. Send a check and those details to Michigan State Police, Central Records Division, Identification Section, 7150 Harris Drive, Lansing, MI 48913. The information, including when and where that person was convicted, should arrive in two or three weeks.

With the person's name, you can also find a case number and ask to examine the court records. The information is free. If you don't know the county in which the person was convicted, you may need to do more research. The April issue of each year's Michigan Bar Journal has a directory of all the courts in Michigan.

If the crime was a felony, the person may have served time in prison. To find out, call the Michigan Department of Corrections at 1-517-373-6391 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and ask for a lookup. You need the person's full name and birth date to access prison records. Source: Lansing State Journal, February 6, 1999, p.1A and 6A; Detroit Free Press, February 25, 1999, p.6A.

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(3) Michigan Ranks Last

When it comes to making basic information on private income, assets, and conflicts of interest available to the public, Michigan's legislature ranks last (tied with Vermont and Idaho), according to a recent Center for Public Integrity study.

The Center ranked each state based on the existence of financial-disclosure filings, access to these public records, basic disclosure requirements, and penalties on the books for late or inaccurate reports. Michigan received one out of a possible 100 points.

In short, Michigan does not require lawmakers to report conflicts of interest when casting votes. And as a result, according to Frank Fitzgerald, a former Republic representative from Grand Ledge, who now serves as the state's insurance commissioner, usually no more than five members of the House will excuse themselves from voting because of a conflict of interest during the course of any session.

For more information about the Center for Public Integrity report, see http://www.publicintegrity.org/50States_main.html.

Source: Lansing State Journal, February 15, 1999, pp.1B and 3B.

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(4) Michigan Attorney General Offers Online Complaint Service

Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm has a new weapon in the battle to protect consumers: the Internet.

The attorney general's office now gets about 60,000 consumer complaints a year, mostly from its telephone hotline. About 12,000 of those will eventually become formal written complaints. About 90% of those complaints will be resolved through mediation.

Complaints about telemarketers top the list, followed by three relatively new complaints: slamming, or illegally changing someone's telephone company without permission; cramming, or billing people for unordered services; and spamming, inundating people with electronic junk mail.

Mail-order schemes, warrantly violations, home improvement and fitness club scams, merchandising complaints, credit repair schemes and travel fraud round out the top 10 complaints.

To facilitate the process, Attorney General Granholm has provided an online Consumer Complaint Filing System on the Michigan Attorney General's Web Page. According to the Lansing State Journal, over 200 online complains have been filed as of March 1, 1999, using the new online form.

The Attorney General's Web Page also provides a Consumer Protection Division Complaint Directory identifying contacts by subject area. Other available resources can be identified on the Consumer and Business Information Page at http://www.ag.state.mi.us/AGWebSite/consumer_and_business_info/fr_consumer.htm.

Source: Lansing State Journal, March 1, 1999, p.5B and Attorney General's Web Page.

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(5) Campaign Finance Reform?

Rep. Scott Shackleton, R-Sault Ste. Marie, and Sen Ken Sikkema, R-Grandville, have introduced bills in the House and Senate aimed at stopping the state's destruction of campaign-finance records which provide information on which special interests help get legislators elected.

Under the current Campaign Finance Act, the Secretary of State's Office must destroy most campaign-finance reports after five years. Even state archivist Davd Johnson said he felt it would be illegal for him to keep copies.

The legislators' actions come in response to a Lansing State Journal report pointing out that Michigan stands alone among the nation's largest states in requiring the destruction of campaign-finance records.

Source: Lansing State Journal, February 8, 1999, p.A1

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