- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa lawmakers say proposed legislation requiring some elected officials to post more contact information online is aimed at transparency - though it’s not expected to change the centralized system in the state Legislature, where lawmakers vary in how much information they provide.

The House unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would require whoever runs a government entity’s website to post a telephone number and an email for an elected public official within 30 days of the person being sworn in. Public officials are defined in the measure as lawmakers, county board supervisors, city council members and board members of a school district.

In the Iowa Legislature - where lawmakers do not have offices at the Capitol or state-funded cellphones - more than 60 members in the 100-seat House have a Capitol switchboard number listed as the main telephone number on their Legislature website profile, along with a work email.

A person who calls the switchboard from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday could be connected to a lawmaker at his or her desk at the chamber. If the lawmaker is away, the caller is directed to a voicemail that is eventually forwarded in an audio file to the lawmaker’s email. Outside those hours during the legislative session, an automated message directs callers to the Iowa Legislature website.

Nearly all 50 members of the Senate have a cellphone or home number posted on their website profile, though two senators have no number listed at all.

There is currently no law that requires lawmakers to post certain contact information. Some House and Senate lawmakers also post links to private websites, but they vary over additional information. Some lawmakers also communicate with constituents on social media like Facebook and Twitter.

Rep. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City, who led the bill on the floor Wednesday, said he believes lawmakers should list a more direct telephone number on the official Legislature website than the switchboard number. He was surprised to learn he had just the switchboard number posted on his own profile.

“I think that it needs to be a number that’s different than what this place is,” he said, referencing the Capitol.

But Sexton stopped short of saying he would try to change the bill that just passed. He said he would consider it if the Senate, which now takes up the bill, amends it and sends it back to his chamber.

Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls and chairman of the State Government Committee, where a similar bill was advanced, said he believes lawmakers should be more accessible to constituents beyond a switchboard number. He has his cellphone number listed.

Danielson said he doesn’t know if he would amend the House bill to add more specific language to require lawmakers to have more information, though he’s open to it.

“Maybe this is a good time to go, ‘How do we modernize our keeping the old traditional value of direct contact?” he said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide