Welcome to National Sunshine Week. The Michigan Coalition for Open Government board has worked hard to get the word out about the importance of FOIA to all of the state’s citizens.
Opinion columns have run in the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, the Lansing State Journal, The Bridge, the St. Ignace News, the Battle Creek Enquirer News, MLive.com among a number of others. Board members have done radio and TV news interviews on the importance of this week, though as MiCOG’s president, Jane Briggs-Bunting noted, “Sunshine Week, because of its importance, should last all year.”
Openness, transparency and accountability are the hallmarks of good government, and Michigan government, especially at the state level has a lot of work to do to bring the Mitten in line with more progressive states. Michigan ranked last of the 50 states earning a failing grade in the 2015 report on integrity and transparency by the Center for Public Integrity.
MiCOG works hard every day to help legislators and other public officials understand that they work for us. We also offer free guidance to citizens seeking to use the FOIA to obtain public records (though some records are exempt by law from disclosure).
Two bills currently before both houses, SB 718 and HB 4283, would correct a significant weakness in Michigan’s FOI law by making the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and the Legislators all subject to the law. Michigan is the ONLY state nationally to statutorily exclude the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. The Legislators were exempted not by statute or court decision but by a 1986 state Attorney General’s Opinion. Michigan is the outlier among many states in this, as well.
You can help the effort by joining MiCOG and emailing or writing your state senator and legislator telling them you want them to approve SB 716 and HB 4283, and you are watching to make sure they do so.. Then let Governor Snyder know he should sign these bills into law. A vote to support efforts to make the Freedom of Information and Open Meetings laws stronger will make Michigan’s government at the state level more transparent and accountable to the people. This could be the one silver lining in the tragedy of what has happened to the children and resident of Flint.
Click on the newspaper links above to see what MiCOG board members Ron Dzwonkowski, Garry Gilbert and Briggs-Bunting have written about this important issue.