The Iowa Senate has voted to force state government officials to publicly disclose when they get paid more than $100 to give a speech or attend a convention. Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, says the reporting would be required when expenses like travel and meals are covered by an outside group or donor.
“We’re going to allow the sunshine to illuminate state government a little bit more,” Danielson says.
State law forbids executive branch employees from accepting gifts worth more than $300, but there are exceptions if the employee is on a trade mission or speaking at a conference — those expenses can be covered by an outside group or donor.
If the bill becomes law, Danielson says state officials would have to file expense reports with the Iowa Ethics Board when they get those kinds of eligible “gifts.”
“We must guard against the real or perceived conflicts of interest in state government,” Danielson says. “Transparency and disclosure are the tools that protect the public trust and this information can be used by Iowans to judge for themselves whether or not the boundaries that could lead to corruption have been crossed.”
The bill was sparked by an all-expenses-paid trip the director of the Iowa Department of Education took to Brazil to attend a conference last year. The Iowa Ethics Board ruled the trip was allowed under Iowa law, but the board’s executive director has asked legislators to pass the public reporting requirements for such travel in the future.
The proposal passed the Senate on a 46-0 vote and now goes to the House for consideration.
AUDIO of senate debate of SF121 (mp3 runs 3 minutes)