The top Republican leader in the Iowa Senate says he will continue to appoint small groups of lawmakers to meet in private to draft public policy. Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Dows says politicians can make more progress on difficult issues by working things out privately. Iverson says private “working groups” are beneficial because they take emotional issues behind closed doors. He says solutions are found instead of “more problems.” Iverson served on a school board for 15 years before he was in the Legislature, and Iverson says he knows politicians at all levels of government are reluctant to toss out ideas in open meetings because they’ll get criticized. But Iowa Freedom of Information Council executive secretary Kathleen Richardson says the legislature’s decisions on things like spending, tax policy and economic development strategies should be made in public, not in private, because the public’s footing the bill. Richardson says it sets a bad example for the other agencies of government in Iowa, like city councils and school boards. Richardson says the most frequent complaint she gets from citizens is that decisions are being made behind closed doors and then proposals are just “rubber-stamped” during public meetings. She says it’s a huge issue at every level of government. Iverson says he’s not saying all decisions should be decided in private first. Iverson says leaders like himself have to be very judicious to ensure that no one’s shut out of the system because of behind-closed-doors decision-making. Susan Judkins, a lobbyist for the League of Cities, says the 2003 Iowa Legislature had closed-door discussions on property taxes, income taxes, economic development and state budget issues. Judkins says it was difficult to find out what was going on and for cities to respond to what was being considered. Mike Owen of the Iowa Public Policy Project, a former reporter and editor, says the best government is that which is accountable and open to the public. Owen says open meetings are a politicians best friend, especially in small towns where “imaginations run wild” and an open account of a public meeting can provide the correct details about policymaking. The Iowa Freedom of Information Council held its annual meeting Friday, and hosted a panel discussion about openness in government.
You are here: / / Top Republican Senator says they’ll continue with closed door meetings