Kudos to ten Democratic Michigan state senators for introducing SB 716 Thursday (January 21, 2016) that would amend the state Freedom of Information Act to include the Governor and the Legislature. This is a step towards addressing one of the reasons Michigan was ranked dead last of 50 states in the 2015 Center for Public Integrity review of transparency and accountability last Fall.
Michigan is just one of three states nationally (the others are Massachusetts and Utah) to legislatively exempt the governor from the requirements of the FOIA law. In 1986 now former Attorney General Frank Kelley issued an opinion saying the legislators were similarly exempt from FOIA. Ironically, the Legislature passed the law and the governor signed it. But curiously, neither branch of government is covered by the law. The Courts exempted themselves on a separation of powers argument the day the FOIA went into effect in 1977. Separation of powers hardly seems valid since those two bodies passed the original law and subsequent amendments.
SB 716 was referred to the Senate’s Government Operations Committee. We hope some of the Republican Senators who also support better transparency in Michigan state government join to fast track this much needed reform to approval this session.
Sponsors of SB 716 are: Senators Coleman Young II (D-1), Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-23), Rebekah Warren (D-18), David Knezek (D-5), Vincent Gregory (D-11), Steven Bieda (D-9), Jim Ananich (D-27), Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-6), Bert Johnson (D-2) and Virgil Smith (D-4).