UPDATE: On March 30, Iowa Senate leaders placed House File 350 on the “unfinished business” calendar, keeping it alive for the 2023 legislative session. However, House File 333 is dead for this year. Original post follows.
The Iowa House has unanimously approved a bill designed to improve the process for those seeking public records from government bodies.
House File 350 would add new language to the open records law, known as Chapter 22, requiring government bodies to “promptly acknowledge” requests for public records and provide contact information for the person designated to handle the request.
The records custodian would also have to provide an “approximate date” for producing the records and an estimate for the cost involved in compiling and reviewing them. Finally, the custodian would need to inform the person seeking records “of any expected delay” in providing them.
The Iowa Public Information Board, which is charged with enforcing the state’s sunshine laws, proposed the bill using language that closely follows one of the board’s advisory opinions.
The goal is to address a recurring problem: some government bodies ignore records requests for weeks or months, leaving members of the public with no idea when or whether they will receive the material. For instance, Clark Kauffman of Iowa Capital Dispatch and Bleeding Heartland guest author Rachel Bruns both experienced lengthy delays when seeking information from the Iowa Department of Public Health.