Legislation allows public to request records from Michigan lawmakers’ and governor’s office, helping restore trust in state government officials
LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Ed McBroom and Sen. Jeremy Moss on Thursday introduced measures to help bring greater transparency to state government. The legislation would require the Michigan Legislature and executive office of the governor to comply with the state’s existing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law — providing Michiganders with greater ability to learn about and understand the decisions of their state government.
“I am so glad to see these sunshine laws get a new dawn,” said McBroom, R-Waucedah Township. “Ever since I was first approached on this issue in 2011, with a bill both parties used for partisan gamesmanship, I have labored for the genuine article. While there is still much work to do and issues to work out, these bills — once adopted — can help rebuild the trust and faith our citizens need to have in their state government.”
Enacted in 1976, Michigan’s FOIA law is nearly alone in the nation in carving out state lawmakers and the governor’s office from being subject to records requests. This exemption contributed to the 2015 report from the Center for Public Integrity which gave Michigan an F in government integrity, and the state ranked dead last — failing 10 out of 13 categories, including public access to information, executive accountability, and legislative accountability.
“The public is denied access to the records in the governor’s office and the state Legislature, and this lack of transparency laws breeds distrust in state government,” said Moss, D-Southfield, chair of the Senate Elections and Ethics Committee. “At a time when faith in government institutions is at a historic low — in Michigan and across the nation — it is critical for our state to shine greater light on the actions of officeholders. We must expand the Freedom of Information Act to include lawmakers and the governor.”
Since Moss and McBroom served together in the Michigan House beginning in 2015, the two have worked in a bipartisan fashion to shine light on the Michigan Legislature and the executive office of the governor and pressed forward through many sessions to move this issue forward.
Senate Bills 669 and 670 differ from past efforts by including the Legislature in FOIA, instead of creating a separate open records act for the state House and Senate. This new approach, following years of Senate inaction, was refined by the bill sponsors with input for the very first time from the office of the Senate majority leader and Senate Business Office.