Five years ago, then-Governor Tom Vilsack asked his Department of Natural Resources to launch a "lean enterprise" effort and today, the Iowa House gave final legislative approval to a bill that establishes a permanent "lean enterprise office" for all of state government.

Representative Vicki Lensing, a Democrat from Iowa City, says "lean enterprise" principles focus on improving customer service. "Lean enterprise began in Iowa in 2003," Lensing says. "That was at a time when we were looking to streamline and improve government."

Lensing cites the Department of Natural Resources as an example. The department has reduced its review time for certain construction permits from 62 days down to 12 days. "This eliminated the backlog and made the process more customer friendly," Lensing says.

Today, the D.N.R. and 19 other executive branch departments use the so-called "lean enterprise" principles to evaluate the way each state agency serves the public. "In these times of budget constraints, accountable government and making the most of what we have — this needs to be the way we continue to do business in Iowa," Lensing says.

Representative Jeff Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, urged his colleagues to vote for the bill. "The whole idea of ‘lean’ and making an office for that in state government is a good one," Kaufmann says.

The bill passed without a dissenting vote and is on its way to Governor Culver, who is expected to sign it. Earlier this year, the Iowa Business Council gave the State of Iowa an award for using "lean enterprise" principles to improve service to the public.

As the Iowa House was voting on the "lean enterprise" bill this morning, the group Iowans for Tax Relief presented State Auditor Dave Vaudt with its "2009 Watchdog" award for his work on budget and spending matters.