The Iowa House has sent the governor a bill that significantly hikes the financial penalties for public officials who violate Iowa’s open meetings and open records laws. Representative Vicki Lensing, a Democrat from Iowa City, had hoped the bill would include more, but she still urged her colleagues to support the measure.

“It’s a first step, and you know how slowly things move in the legislature, so this could be a huge step forward,” Lensing says. Under current law, an employee of a government agency — from school boards to state government — who “knowingly” violates the state’s “Sunshine” Law could be fined up to five-hundred dollars.

The bill would increase that potential penalty to a maximum of $2,500, a five-fold increase. Representative Kevin Koester, a Republican from Ankeny, says the goal is to increase transparency in government. “Significant change to the expectation of public officials who knowingly hide an open record,” Koester said.

The bill passed the Senate on March 8th by a 48-0. On Monday afternoon, the proposal passed the House on a 96-0 vote. It now goes to Governor Branstad for his signature or veto.