2015 Robert J. Colborn, Jr. Innovation Award
See the Award Application HERE.
NASS Administrative Rules Organization Honors Iowa Office of the Chief Information Officer with 2015 Colborn Award
Public Comment Website for Administrative Rules Earns Iowa CIO the 2015 Robert J. Colborn, Jr. Award
See the Official Press Release HERE.
The background of the innovation will be posted here after the announcement.
Iowa’s creation of a unique website for accessing and commenting on proposed rules on a single page is an innovative means of engaging the public in the state’s administrative rule making process.
Executive Summary (provided online per ACR Bylaws):
In Iowa both the executive and legislative branches of government are engaged in the administrative rule process. Both branches of government are committed to transparency and citizen engagement. The Office of the Chief Information Officer was enlisted to develop a new public comment system to make it easier for citizens to provide comments on rules. Historically, the process for citizens to submit comments was not uniform. One department might offer email submission of comments and another department would only offer submission by phone, fax or U.S. mail. On May 1st the OCIO released https://rules.iowa.gov as the uniform and centralized process for public comments allowing citizens to easily submit comments on-line.
The new website streamlined a process that required Iowans interested in commenting on proposed rules to navigate through multiple webpages. Previously, Iowans had to navigate to the Legislature Website, then to the Iowa Law and Rules Webpage, then to the Iowa Administrative Rules Webpage to find the Rules Tracker page. Once there, Iowans could view a rule, but couldn’t comment on the rule. Rules.Iowa.Gov creates a one-stop shop for viewing rules and commenting on proposed rules they’re interested in.
The public comment site is unique in it’s ability to allow citizens to enter the comment while viewing the rule eliminating the need to switch between windows with a rule in one window and another window where the comment was to be entered. The site is also unique in it’s ability to allow citizens to enter a comment specific to a section of the proposed rule. The site was designed to allow the citizen to read through the proposed rule and if they click on the section they are reading the comment box appears and populates the comment box with the specific section for the comment will apply. Commenting by rule section makes the feedback to the agency clear. This feature helps the citizen make their feedback very specific.
The new public comment site also offers educational information about the rule making process as well as a directory of all State agencies, their contact information and links to the agency rule section all available in a mobile friendly site.
It is significant that the site is mobile friendly as State of Iowa websites and applications generally see 21% of the traffic coming from a mobile device and 6% coming from a tablet. The PEW Foundation reports in their report “U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015” that 10% of Americans own a smartphone but do not have broadband at home. Nearly two-thirds of Americans are now smartphone owners. OCIO committed to the mobile responsive design to eliminate the pinch and scroll frustration users can experience on a phone or tablet. Making the system easy to use is expected to result in greater citizen participation in the rule process. Making the application mobile responsive also makes it easier for people to submit comments from anywhere.
Because of the collaboration between the legislative and executive branches the site now offers a way for citizens to easily find rules that are open for comment, identify how much time is available to comment on the rule, and easily submit their comments. Citizen response to the site has been seen in area blogs “Fantastic new resource launched on Iowa Administrative Rules” and a post from the Association of Business and Industry “New administrative rules website increases transparency.” This new website is accessible 24/7 for Iowans to voice their opinion on government rules and brings yet another element of transparency to government.
2015 Committee Members:
Manager, Colorado Administrative Rules Program
Emeritus ACR President
Registrar of Regulations, Virginia Division of Legislative Services
Codifier of Rules, North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings
This report will be prepared under ACR Bylaws by the 2015 Committee Chair.