Evaluation of Iowa state website

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Iowa.gov is the website for the state of Iowa. Gov. Branstad signed into law a bill that will create a searchable, online state budget database.[1]

The Iowa Senate has recently passed a bill creating an Iowa Public Information Board which increases potential fines for violating state disclosure laws.[2]

Website evaluation

Usability P
Elected Officials
Administrative Officials
Lobbying N
600px-Red x.png
Public records
State agency websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

This website was reviewed on January 15, 2012.

The good

  • The site has a search function and is relatively easy to navigate from the agency directory page,[3] but it can be difficult to navigate the department pages.
  • A department directory is posted with contact information.[4]
  • Legislative[5] and executive officials[6] are listed with contact information.
  • Audits are posted.[7][8]
  • Bid opportunities and contracts are posted.[9]
  • Budgets are posted.[10]
  • Tax information is available.[11]
  • Ethics information is available,[12] and lists of registered lobbyists are posted.[13]
  • Iowa's open records law is posted.[14]
  • Information is posted on public records requests.[15]

The bad

U.S. PIRG rating

The U.S. PIRG rated the state website an "F" on providing online access to government spending data, with a score of 19 out of 100.[16]

The scorecard that U.S. PIRG uses has 13 items and focuses on a separate state website that is searchable at the checkbook level. Sunshine Review, on the other hand, focuses on the availability of separate spending-related items; they do not need to be in a central database.

Item Possible points Notes
Checkbook-level website 30 Detailed expenditure information, including individual payments made to vendors.
Search by vendor 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by contractor or vendor name.
Search by keyword of activity 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by type of service or item purchased, category, or government fund.
Search by agency or departments 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by branch of government.
Contract or summary information 10 A copy of the contract or detailed summary information is included for the expenditures.
Historical expenditures 5 Checkbook-level expenditure data from previous fiscal years.
Grants and economic development incentives information 10 Awardee-specific grants and/or economic development incentives are included in the checkbook tool or elsewhere with specific award amounts.
Downloadable 3 Information can be downloaded for data analysis.
Tax expenditure reports 10 The state's tax expenditure report is linked on the website.
Off-budget agencies 2 Expenditures from quasi-public agencies are included on the website.
City and county budgets 2 Financial information for some local governments is accessible.
ARRA Funding 2 A link is provided to the state's website that tracks funding related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Feedback 2 Website users are capable and encouraged to give feedback about the site.

There are several similarities between the checklists. For both checklists, the searchability of information factors in to how usability is rated. Both checklists have an item relating to contracts, tax information, and the budget. The U.S. PIRG requires information for quasi public entities; Sunshine Review requires information on lobbying, which includes quasi public entities' lobbying activity.

Unlike the Sunshine Review checklist with each check worth one point, different items on the U.S. PIRG checklist merit more or fewer points, depending on the item.

State Integrity Investigation

The 2012 State Integrity Investigation graded state ethics laws according to an "Integrity Index." The index was created by researching 330 "Integrity Indicators" across 14 categories of state government. The report assigned grades based on what laws are on the books, and whether or not they were effectively enforced. The report was a project of The Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.[17]

Iowa received an overall grade of C+, or 78%. It ranked 7 out of the 50 states.[18]

Category Grade
Public Access to Information F
Political Financing C
Executive Accountability C+
Legislative Accountability C-
Judicial Accountability C
State Budget Processes D+
State Civil Service Management D-
Procurement A
Internal Auditing A
Lobbying Disclosure B
State Pension Fund Management A
Ethics Enforcement Agencies B+
State Insurance Commissions D+
Redistricting A

Transparency Legislation


  • Gov. Branstad signed into law a bill to create a searchable, online state budget database.[19]
  • The Iowa Senate passed a bill creating an Iowa Public Information Board which increases potential fines for violating state disclosure laws.[20]


Resource Run by Includes Year URL
Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board State Lobbying and campaign finance 2011 http://www.state.ia.us/government/iecdb/viewreports/
Salary Book State Salary Book 2010 http://www.legis.iowa.gov/LSAReports/salaryBook.aspx
Fiscal Services - K-12 Education Information State Fiscal Services - K-12 Education Information 2011 http://staffweb.legis.state.ia.us/lfb/docs/k-12_ed/k-12_ed.htm
Iowa\'s Economic Recovery State Tracks federal stimulus funds 2011 http://www.iowa.gov/recovery/
Department of Administrative Services State Procurement information 2011 http://das.gse.iowa.gov/procurement/index.html
Iowa Transparency Public Interest Institute Transparency info 2010 http://www.iowatransparency.org/
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in Politics Campaign contributions 2010 http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=IA


State and Local Employees

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, represents approximately 13,000 state employees, on December 23, 2010, approved a contract with a 6 percent pay increase split over 2011 and 2012. The contract calls for a 2 percent across-the-board salary increase as of July 1; 1 percent more as of Jan. 1, 2012; 2 percent more on July 1, 2012; and 1 percent more on Jan. 1, 2013.[21] Prior to being elected governor, Terry Branstad said the pay hikes would cost the state too much money.[21]

According to 2008 Census data, the state of Iowa and local governments in the state employed a total of 232,004 people.[22] Of those employees, 152,320 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $605,192,000 per month and 79,684 were part-time employees paid $78,652,186 per month.[22] More than 59% of those employees, or 136,897 employees, were in education or higher education.[22]

The typical state employee earning an annual $40,000 salary costs taxpayers another 35 percent - or about $14,000 - in benefits.[23]

In FY2010, over two dozen Iowa state government workers received $30,000 or more in overtime pay, which the state pays at time and a half.[23]

State Employee Benefits

The State of Iowa offers its employees many benefits. Employees receiving full-time benefits must work 30 hours or more per week in benefit-eligible positions. Employees receiving part-time benefits must work 20 – 29 hours per week in benefit-eligible positions.[24]


Health Employees can choose from several options for health insurance, including two Managed Care Organization (MCO) options, a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and an Indemnity. None of the plans offered have a lifetime maximum benefit limit.[24] Prescription drug coverage is included in all options.[24] Employees do not pay for the MCO options.[24] For full-time employees, the state's monthly contribution varies from $398.49 to $643.23 for a single employee and between $932.47 and $1,274.79 per month for family coverage.[24]

Dental Employees may elect to have dental coverage, which comes at no cost for single individual coverage and low cost for family coverage.[24] The state pays $26.14 per month for single coverage and $35.04 for family.[24]

Life Employees in eligible positions working more than 30 hours per week receive basic term life insurance and accidental death, long term disability insurance and dismemberment insurance paid for fully by the state.[24] Employees have the option of adding a supplemental life insurance policy for which the employee pays in full.[24]

Vacation Full-time employees accrue the following number of vacation hours based on their years of service with the state[24]:

years of service hours accumulated
1 - 4 years of service 80 hours per year
5 - 11 years of service 120 hours per year
12 - 19 years of service 160 hours per year
20 - 24 years of service 176 hours per year
25 or more years of service 200 hours per year

Additionally, two unscheduled holidays are added to the employee's vacation accrual. Part-time employees earn prorated amounts of vacation based on the number of hours worked.[24]

Sick Leave The amount of sick leave earned by an employee varies depending on the number of hours of sick leave already earned and also whether the employee falls under the UE/IUP-covered Social Service Unit[24] Employees in the social service unit earn between 4 and 8 hours of sick leave per month. Other employees earn either 4, 8 or 12 hours of sick leave per month.[24]. A benefit-eligible employee who has accumulated a minimum of 30 days (240 sick leave hours) and who did not use sick leave during the previous calendar month may convert sick leave to vacation.

An employee may be able to use sick leave for medically related disabilities, personal illness, and personal medical and dental appointments. In some cases, the employee can use sick leave for deaths in the immediate family, pallbearer service, care of immediate family members and adoption.[24]

Holidays All permanent and probationary employees receive 9 paid holidays each year.[24]

  • New Year’s Day
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Day after Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

Other Leave Employees may also be granted leave for a variety of other reasons, including[24]:

  • Bone Marrow & Organ Donation
  • Disaster Service Volunteer
  • Jury Duty/Court Appearance
  • Educational
  • Military
  • Election
  • Voting


Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS) is the state's largest government retirement system, with 324,000 members.[23][25] The system faces $4.9 billion of unfunded actuarial liability, up from $2.7 billion a year ago.[23][25] The system has a funding ratio of 81.4% of assets against liabilities, down from almost 98% a decade ago.[25] Over the next three decades, recent actuarial changes made by the state could reduce the shortfall.[25]

Plan Current Value Percentage funded Unfunded liabilities Total state employees Avg. pension
Iowa Public Employees Retirement System $19.9 billion 81.9 percent $4.98 billion 324,000 active members $13,085

Contribution Rates

Public employees who are regular IPERS members have a total of 11.45% of their wages contributed to IPERS, with the employee contribution currently set at 4.5% of their wages and government employers contributing 6.95%.[25] As of July 1, 2011, regular IPERS members' contributions will increase to 5.38%, and employers contributions will increase to 8.07%, bringing the total to 13.45% of an employee's wages.[25]

The state increased contribution rates for employees and employers for the Peace Officers Retirement System (PORS) so that the 2010 contribution rates are 21.00% for the employer and 9.35% for the employee, and the employee contribution will increase of 0.5% a year to 11.35% in FY2013. For IPERS, the contribution of most members other than public safety officers, EMT members and jailers under existing law will increase 1.5%[23] to a total of 11.95%, with members paying 4.7% of salary and employers paying 7.25% on July 1, 2011.[26][27]

Public Records

The Iowa Open Records Law is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Iowa. The law was first enacted in 1967.

The Iowa Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: Iowa FOIA procedures.

External links


  1. Gazette, "Branstad signs budget web site into law," March 7, 2011
  2. Des Moines Register, "Iowa Senate panel approves public information board," March 2, 2011
  3. Iowa.gov, "Agency," accessed January 15, 2012
  4. Iowa.gov, "Department Listing," accessed January 15, 2012
  5. Iowa.gov, "Legislative Contacts," accessed January 15, 2012
  6. Iowa.gov, "Contact Governor," accessed January 15, 2012
  7. Iowa.gov, "Audit Reports," accessed January 15, 2012
  8. Iowa.gov, "Publications," accessed January 15, 2012
  9. Iowa.gov, "Procurement," accessed January 15, 2012
  10. Iowa.gov, "Budget Archives," accessed January 15, 2012
  11. Iowa.gov, "Department of Revenue," accessed January 15, 2012
  12. Iowa.gov, "Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board," accessed January 15, 2012
  13. Iowa.gov, "Lists," accessed January 15, 2012
  14. Iowa.gov, "Iowa Open Records Law," accessed January 15, 2012
  15. Iowa.gov, "Sunshine Advisories: Public Records," accessed January 15, 2012
  16. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  17. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  18. Iowa Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  19. Gazette, "Branstad signs budget web site into law," March 7, 2011
  20. Des Moines Register, "Iowa Senate panel approves public information board," March 2, 2011
  21. 21.0 21.1 The Des Moines Register "98 percent in state union ratify contract" Dec. 24, 2010
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 2008 Iowa Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 The Des Moines Register "Some state workers' overtime pay tops $30,000 " Sept. 5, 2010
  24. 24.00 24.01 24.02 24.03 24.04 24.05 24.06 24.07 24.08 24.09 24.10 24.11 24.12 24.13 24.14 24.15 Benefits at a Glance (dead link)
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 25.5 The Des Moines Register "Tough decisions helped IPERS, actuary reports" Dec. 3, 2010
  26. Teachers Retirement System Legislative Information
  27. Iowa House file 2518