Local Lawmakers Support Plan To Make State Government More Accountable
March 20, 2019
Two local lawmakers are among those supporting a bi-partisan plan to extend open record requirements to the governor and legislature.
The House unanimously approved the multi-bill proposal Tuesday, with both Republican State Representatives Hank Vaupel of Fowlerville and Ann Bollin of Brighton Township praising the plan. The package of bills aims to end Michigan's status as one of just two states to fully exempt the Legislature and governor's office from Freedom of Information Act requests. Some information such as communications with constituents could be exempt from disclosure. Other types of communications – including those lawmakers have with state departments and lobbyists – would not be exempt.
Vaupel commented that government is better and more trustworthy when it is completely transparent. He says people have the right to hold lawmakers accountable and he supports the measure to open up his own records, as all legislators should.
Bollin commented that extending the Freedom of Information Act to the state Legislature and executive branch is long overdue. Bollin served as FOIA Coordinator for Brighton Township for 15 years before joining the Legislature and says all branches of state government should be held to the same standards imposed on local government.
However, unlike the standard FOIA local governments are required to follow, the bills would not allow people who are denied FOIA requests by the legislature to go to the state Court of Claims to appeal that decision. Instead, such denials would be handled by an administrator of the Legislative Council while barring judicial review of those decisions. The Detroit Free Press says lawmakers justified that provision by saying it would make it less expensive to appeal denials because lawyers and court fees wouldn’t be involved. But open records advocates said an independent review of those denials is essential.
House Bills 4007-13 and 4015-16 now advance to the Senate for consideration. Similar bills passed the House in recent years only to die in the Senate. (JM/JK)