A state law that goes into effect July 1st sets new parameters for what government agencies and officials may charge for access to public records. Senator Waylon Brown of Osage said the bill sets a reasonable standard of what the custodians of public records are to charge for copies.

“The custodian shall make every reasonable effort to provide a record at no cost, other than copying, if the record takes less than 30 minutes to produce,” Brown said. “It permits a person to contest the reasonableness of the expenses and, lastly, it limits the costs for legal services only for redaction or review of legally protected confidential information.”

Representative Mary Mascher of Iowa City called it a consumer protection law.

“Obviously we want to make sure people have access to copies. It allows anyone to visually look at public records at any time without any cost at all,” Mascher said during House debate, adding that people who believe they’ve been overcharged for copies of public records may use the appeal process set up by the new law.

Representative Megan Jones of Sioux Rapids said the law “strikes a balance” between state and local governments and the requesters of public records, but it’s also an important check on some corporations that go on data mining expeditions through public records.

“They submit these really fradulent requests which can be very expensive to the taxpayer, ” Jones said, “so while government should be responsible to the people, we also cannot afford for the taxpayer to just be used a data center at taxpayer expense.”

The Iowa Broadcasters Association and the Iowa Newspaper Association registered in favor of the proposal. The bill passed the Senate unanimously in February and cleared the House on a 93-0 vote in March. The governor approved it this week.