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Vox Hawkeye A Study in the Intellectual Call for Open Government (and How One State Heeded It)
Unformatted Document Text:  begin debate on its version of the bill, The Des Moines Register weighed in with what it saw as the bill’s major virtues and flaws. 104 At the outset, the editorialist lauded how the new law proposed to expand its coverage to include “any committee created by one of the covered state and local governing bodies”—thus sidestepping court rulings that “the present law does not apply to such committees that include no members of the creating body in its membership.” 105 In addition, the paper opined that the “proposal would improve enforcement by providing for civil penalties rather than the criminal penalty which prosecutors and courts have been reluctant to seek or impose, and by providing for the removal from office of any official found guilty of three violations.” 106 The paper also looked favorably on the specific clauses of the law that would permit “electronic meetings” (e.g. telephone conferences) only if public access was somehow provided as well; gave license to private citizens to record any public meeting; required “secret” (as the paper characterized them) meetings to be “recorded so the courts could use the recording for evidence if legality should be challenged”; and authorized the courts to “void action taken at a meeting which violated the law.” 107 Paramount, though, the paper lauded the positive development of the legislature looking to eliminate “the catchall provision which permits public bodies to meet in secret ‘for reasons so compelling as to override the general public policy in favor of public meetings.’ This would be replaced by a list of eight specifically defined topics which may be discussed in secret.” 108 It is at this point that The Register changes its tone to issue its opinion on how the bill—in its current manifestation—could be improved and to then admonish the legislators on how the final bill should thus look. In particular, the paper exhorts the legislators to carefully scrutinize the definitions they have wrought and the exceptions they have thus far proposed. For example, the editorialist takes the legislators to task for the definition of what constitutes a “meeting,” averring that it “is inadequate and 104 “Open Government,” The Des Moines Register, 24 January 1978, 14A. 105 Ibid. 106 Ibid. 107 Ibid. 108 Ibid.

Authors: stepanek, steve.
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begin debate on its version of the bill, The Des Moines Register weighed in with what it saw as the bill’s 
major virtues and flaws.
At the outset, the editorialist lauded how the new law proposed to expand its coverage to include 
“any committee created by one of the covered state and local governing bodies”—thus sidestepping court 
rulings that “the present law does not apply to such committees that include no members of the creating 
body in its membership.
In addition, the paper opined that the “proposal would improve enforcement by providing for civil 
penalties rather than the criminal penalty which prosecutors and courts have been reluctant to seek or 
impose, and by providing for the removal from office of any official found guilty of three violations.
The paper also looked favorably on the specific clauses of the law that would permit “electronic 
meetings” (e.g. telephone conferences) only if public access was somehow provided as well; gave license 
to private citizens to record any public meeting; required “secret” (as the paper characterized them) 
meetings to be “recorded so the courts could use the recording for evidence if legality should be 
challenged”; and authorized the courts to “void action taken at a meeting which violated the law.
Paramount, though, the paper lauded the positive development of the legislature looking to 
eliminate “the catchall provision which permits public bodies to meet in secret ‘for reasons so compelling 
as to override the general public policy in favor of public meetings.’  This would be replaced by a list of 
eight specifically defined topics which may be discussed in secret.
It is at this point that The Register changes its tone to issue its opinion on how the bill—in its 
current manifestation—could be improved and to then admonish the legislators on how the final bill 
should thus look.  In particular, the paper exhorts the legislators to carefully scrutinize the definitions they 
have wrought and the exceptions they have thus far proposed.  For example, the editorialist takes the 
legislators to task for the definition of what constitutes a “meeting,” averring that it “is inadequate and 
 “Open Government,” The Des Moines Register, 24 January 1978, 14A.

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