Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday signed legislation into law that will reopen a northeast Minnesota economic development agency's books to the public.
Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) hasn't had to release the basic financial information of companies it loaned money to since an exemption to the state's public data requirement was passed in 2008.
Rep. Tom Anzlec, DFL-Balsam Township, was the bill's author, and is a member of the agency's board. He said the bill wouldn't have passed without strong support from Republicans committed to public oversight.
"When and if a citizen wants to find out how public tax dollars, in this case taconite production tax dollars, are spent, they're going to be able to find out exactly what happened," Anzelc said. "It's openness and sunshine in government, and I think it's a good thing."
The agency's exemption from the public data requirements drew the ire of some activists, who said it removed public accountability of the state agency's loans.
IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich said the change wouldn't affect the day-to-day operations of the agency.
"We'll have to give notice to the companies that we have a change of policy," Sertich said. "Most of the information we collect already is classified as public information, or it's still classified as non-public in the existing state statutes."
Officials at the IRRRB had expressed concern in the past that public data requirements would scare companies away from the agency.
"They'll share the information with us, but some of them have concern about some of their personal business information getting out broadly," Sertich said. "But that's just what they'll have to weigh when we interact with them."
Anzelc's bill was included in the data practices omnibus bill.