Target: Iowa Governor Terry Branstad
Goal: Allow more government documents to be made available to the interested public.
Recently, Iowa lawmakers created entirely new open records laws. The most significant change to the laws is the creation of the Iowa Public Information Board, which will investigate complaints about records access and bring them to court on behalf of the citizens. This is clearly a positive change that will save a lot of time and money for the citizens of Iowa. However, other changes in the laws give people concern.
These changes include rewording the definition of what records are accessible to the public under this law. The bill that introduces the board has an amendment which states that ‘tentative, preliminary, draft, speculative, or research material’ is exempt from open records. However, drafts can be as useful to the interested public as the final material, and should not be kept from public view. Additionally, any documents related to the judicial or legislative branches of the state government are exempt from open records. This leaves very little that is available to the public.
The open records laws allow the public to know what their government is doing. Iowa’s legislature is helping the public by creating the new board, but is also stopping the public from knowing anything by hiding most of the information from them. The many exemptions to open records mean that the majority of government documents will be unavailable to the public. This is directly against the intent of open records laws. More material should be available to the interested public.
Dear Governor Branstad,
Recently, a bill was drafted to change Iowa’s open records laws. The bill included amendments which limited what government documents are viewable to the public under open records. These limits mean that draft materials as well as documents related to the judicial and legislative branches are all exempt from being open records. This means that the majority of records will not actually be open records.
I ask you to include these materials in the open records law. Open records laws are designed to give the public access to what their government is doing. With such severe limits on what materials are actually available to the public, there is very little access given. Include these materials so that the intent of the open records law can be fulfilled.
[Your Name Here]