Skubick: Move to more transparency in state government gains momentum

 

The Courser-Gamrat story has generated more interest in expanding the state’s Freedom of Information law to include the Michigan legislature.

But the measure may be in trouble.

Which lobbyists are taking which lawmakers to lunch, and which constituents are lobbying which lawmakers for favors?

If you think you should know that then you will probably support this legislation.

Republican Rep. John Bizon wants to expand the state Freedom Of Information Act, known as FOIA, to include the legislature and governor. They are now exempt.

Rep. Bizon, who is a doctor, thinks elected officials don’t have the same relationship as a doctor would have with patient. “Appointments would be a FOIA-able. I would have to imagine correspondence possible,” said Rep. Bizon. “I’m not sure that the doctor-patient relationship is the same as the legislature-client relationship.”

By exempting itself from the law, Democrat lawmaker Rep. Jeremy Moss contends it sends the wrong signal to the citizens. “If we’re not open and transparent on the front end then, yeah, there is the presumption that we have something to hide and I don’t think we should or do.”

The recently flap over two former lawmakers and what they did in their offices, has added new impetus to expanding the FOIA law here.

“Everything that happens in your office will be under the public eye,” claims Rep. Marty Howrylak. “It’s always good to act in the public interest not implying that anybody isn’t, but the public needs to be able to operate as a check as part of the check and balance.”

But the same legislation has been pending in the Michigan Senate since last March and it is going nowhere fast according to sponsor Sen. Steve Bieda. “It really shows kind of a galling lack of respect for the public right to know. I find that a little arrogant.”

To underscore the situation in Michigan: the state is one of only two states that exempt lawmakers and the governor from these laws and Michigan ranks dead last on the transparency scale.

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