A bill that would force most elected officials in Iowa to post a phone number or an email address on the website for the government entity on which they serve has cleared the Iowa House and Senate. Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, says it’s important for elected officials to give constituents a point of “direct contact.”
“We believe in order for democracy to work, you ought to have direct contact with that elected official and it’s kind of silly that we even have to state that,” Danielson says. “But there are some local elected bodies who are screening those contacts and then getting them to the individual elected members.”
In Osceola County, for example, the county supervisors used to list the county auditor’s number as their point of contact, so the auditor had to pass along the messages. Some Iowa school administrators and their staff have screened constituent calls for school board members. All but two members of the Senate currently list their home phone number, their cell phone number or both on the legislature’s website, but the majority of House members only list the phone number for the House switchboard, so constituents must leave a message, Monday through Friday, during regular business hours. Danielson says that doesn’t appear to meet the “spirit” of the bill.
“From time to time, institutions have the ability to make their own decisions and then we all have the opportunity to point out where we think it can be improved,” Danielson says.
A spokesperson for House leaders says House members believe they’re meeting the bill’s requirements by listing the switchboard number as their point of contact. The bill cleared the House and Senate yesterday with only two dissenting votes. It now goes to the governor for his consideration.