The state ombudsman says lawmakers should do more to make sure Iowans have proper access to government documents and proceedings. This past spring the legislature considered substantial updates in the state’s open meetings and open records laws.
Lawmakers drafted new language to cover electronic communications, like email. The bill that was ultimately shelved would have prohibited city councils or boards of supervisors from using private dinner meetings to discuss public policy. State Ombudsman Bill Angrick testified Tuesday before the legislature’s Oversight Committee.
"It perhaps would have been a real achievement if the law had passed or significant portions for the law had passed," Angrick said, "but I think you have made some very, very good steps and I really urge that you continue with that investment."
Angrick’s also concerned by reports that the governor’s office wants to begin charging Iowans legal fees if they ask to see documents that need to be reviewed by a staff attorney. While government agencies do have the right to charge a printing or preparation fee, Angrick says charging legal fees would make it too expensive for regular Iowans to obtain some state documents.