A state senator from Cedar Falls is pushing a bill that he says would force the Iowa Board of Regents to be more open and accountable. The bill, introduced by Democrat Jeff Danielson, would prohibit the board and its staff from political activities or to take a side on issues subject to legislative debate.
Keith Saunders, with the Board of Regents, believes there are some problems with the proposal. “It shouldn’t be a prerequisite for public service that a citizen gives up their first amendment rights to petition their government and that’s really what this is,” Saunders says.
Critics of the bill also say it’s unfair to restrict the Board of Regents without doing the same for all boards and commissions in the state. Republican Senator Jack Whitver of Ankeny says while he appreciates transparency of state government, the bill could duplicate work already being done.
“I understand that the Regents have already set up a task force to address this issue,” Whitver said. “Anytime we can get something done without passing legislation, adding to our multi-volume code book, it’s a good thing.”
The bill would also create a Regent seat for a faculty member of the universities and any board proposal that costs $100,000 or more would require a public hearing. It would also require the Regents to hold public forums in six geographic regions quarterly, with each board meeting to include 30 minutes for public comment.