With 2013 ending in a matter of days, it’s a good time to reflect on the work of MiCOG since our March 2013 launch.
For those who joined the effort as individual, nonprofit and corporate members, we thank you for your support, and we hope you continue that support by renewing your membership for 2014 now.
We had a busy launch year for MiCOG that began during FOI Week in March. We received our tax-exempt status from the IRS in record time of less than six weeks in June, and the IRS made that retroactive to December 2012. That means your dues are fully tax deductible on your 2013 tax return.
MiCOG is now a recognized voice in the state legislature as we commented on a series of proposed bills during the past nine months. Sadly, many would further limit public access to government at the state and local levels.
We actively opposed those measures, which included:
- a bill to limit access to accident reports
- a bill to limit access to juvenile criminal history records.
- a bill to create secret mental health courts for non-violent offenders.
- a bill that moved Court of Claims cases from Ingham County Circuit Court to four Supreme Court appointed appellate judges. All FOI and Open Meetings (OMA) cases against state departments and agencies will now be assigned by blind draw to one of four appellate judges.
- a bill to require e-filing in all courts statewide that completely ignores public access to digital court records and potential costs to access those records.
We were strong supporters of proposed changes in the state Freedom of Information law that would give citizens more leverage and governments more incentive to provide records promptly and at minimal cost.
Two bills, sponsored by Rep. Tom McMillin and Rep. Mike Shirkey would make the state freedom of information law effective for citizens seeking public records. Rep. McMillin just introduced legislation today (12-12-13) to improve the state Open Meetings Act.
MiCOG Board members have participated in a half dozen forums, panels and community meetings around the state to educate the public on their rights under the FOIA and OMA.
We’ve also joined our voice with those of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and other states’ groups to push for public access on the proposed federal Farm Bill.
U.S. Debbie Stabenow chairs the Agriculture Committee giving MiCOG’s input more weight in the discussion. The year ahead promises to be full of challenges to public access to state and local government. As revelations continue over NSA snooping activities on private citizens, it is ironic that state and local governments and Michigan’s courts keep pushing for greater secrecy in their operations–operations that citizens pay for through income, sales and property taxes.
Please visit the news tab at MiCOG’s website to keep in touch. And please help us to continue our efforts to make state and local public officials accountable to the citizens they serve by renewing your membership for 2014. Dues for 2014 are: Corporate Members $250. Nonprofit Members $100. Associate Members $25. Student Members $10. Individuals could also become Supporting Members for $50.
It is easy to renew online at miopengov.org/join or just send a check to the Michigan Coalition for Open Government, P.O. Box 617, Dimondale, MI 48821-0617
Again, thank you for your support in 2013. We hope you choose to continue it in 2014.