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Achieving transparency a top priority for local governments

February 13, 2013

The White House may have revealed a variety of transparency and open government initiatives at the federal level, but many state, county and city councils are also exploring transparency solutions. According to The Spectrum, transparency is one of the most important public opinion situations that local governments are facing, and ensuring community trust and security should be the No. 1 priority for any council.

According to the news source, the Utah state senate recently saw how important openness was to its citizens when it passed a piece of legislature that would limit public access to electronic communications between lawmakers. The bill passed and was almost immediately rescinded due to vehement public disapproval. Since then, the state has taken efforts to improve its adherence to open and transparent government policies, including implementing a task force to recommend standards for requests made under Utah's Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA).

Texas also recently saw improvements introduced to its own transparency efforts, according to My San Antonio. State representatives presented amendments to allow the public to submit video as part of legislative committee hearings rather than being forced to attend the length of meetings, which are often long, in order to speak or otherwise contribute to the debate. This solution doesn't fully address open government concerns, but it does provide a way for new information to be added to hearing records that may not otherwise be available.

According to the news source, the proposed changes also offer rules for providing online access to video and any other backup information presented regarding legislation under consideration. This will help keep the public better informed and will close a loophole in the current legislation that only requires the reporting of any financial impact a bill might have in the first five years of its implementation.

The key to improving government transparency is to have the proper tools on-hand that will assist in the organization of information. Any local government on the state, county or city level owes it to its constituents to invest in meeting management software which will not only improve public access to meeting minutes and records but reduce related administrative costs over time. IQM2's M2 Suite provides cost-effective, versatile tools that can enhance council meetings and eliminate many barriers to public access to data.