Democracy functions best when the public has access to detailed information about what government officials do and why they do it.
Iowa and most other states have what are called "sunshine" laws. They require that most public business be conducted in meetings open to the public. There are also statutory requirements that most records are to be available for scrutiny by the press and any other interested party.
So what happens when business is done outside the rules or records that should be open are kept secret?
All too often, in the past, not much.
That's about to change.
The Legislature has approved an overhaul of Iowa's open meetings and records law. The goal is to guarantee greater access by the public to information about government proceedings and decisions.
A new Iowa Public Information Board is being created. It will oversee the enforcement of open meetings and open records laws. Board members and staff will evaluate claims that violations of these laws have taken place and initiate corrective action as needed.
It is important to the preservation of democratic government that the exceptions to doing business in the open should be few and carefully justified.
By serving as an investigative focal point for complaints that can be easily accessed by the public the new board is an important step forward.
Gov. Terry Branstad is a strong supporter of improving government transparency. So too are a broad spectrum of legislators from both political parties. This new board is a welcome result of a long campaign to improve sunshine-law enforcement.
This strengthened law is good news for all Iowans. The Messenger applauds this excellent enhancement of our governmental system.