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Monday, May 05, 2008

Iowa Reforms Die A Sad, Sad Death...

Ah, the uphill battle that is FOI reform...

A proposed rewrite of Iowa's sunshine laws was unceremoniously dumped at about 1 a.m. Saturday, one of the final acts of the Legislative session.

Supporters of the bill are still trying to figure out what happened.

"It's disappointing, to say the least, that we didn't get that through," said Sen. Mike Connolly, D-Dubuque, one of the lead sponsors.

The Senate passed the plan late Friday and sent it to the House as part of a larger budget bill. After midnight, the House then amended the bill to delete any changes to the sunshine laws. It was the last bill of the session.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, said in a statement Monday that he decided not to go forward with the measure because Republicans threatened to use stall tactics to force an all-night debate unless the item was removed. He said he hopes to see progress on the issue next year.

Connolly, who had no forewarning of the House's action, said the bill's demise is a victory for opponents of open government.

"There's pressure coming from places that we're not seeing," he said.

The main opponents were local governments, represented by groups like the Iowa League of Cities. Local government leaders had concerns that the proposed rules would lead to a flood of open-records requests and investigations of alleged violations of the law. Republicans shared many of those concerns.

A previous version of the bill passed the Senate on April 14. The 50-page bill was an attempt to improve openness in government by fixing a long list of loopholes in current law. The bill called for the creation of a new panel, the Iowa Public Information Board, to enforce the new rules.

More here.

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