Bills to open the governor's office and legislature to open records laws passed the House of Representatives unanimously on Thursday in a rare, ten-bill streak without a single member voting against the legislation.
"The people of Michigan deserve more accountability from their politicians and better access to their state government. These bills deliver on both counts and raise the ethical bar for state officials who often play a large role in the lives of everyday Michiganders," said House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt.
House bills 4148 through 4157 work in concert to both subject the governor's office to the existing Freedom of Information Act and create a new Legislative Open Records Act. Both expansions include some unique carve-outs; the governor, for instance, wouldn't have to release information on pardoning prisoners and lawmakers wouldn't have to release contact with constituents.
They passed the House 108-0.
In a significant amendment at the committee level last week, lawmakers eliminated a provision that would have let them make further exemptions through the House or Senate rules.
Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, led the package alongside Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.
Moss said on the House floor that the state shouldn't be satisfied with being one of two states that exempt its legislature and governor from FOIA or ranking as the least transparent state in the nation.
"No one here should boast to anyone that we run a translucent state government. We need to embrace full transparency," Moss said.
The bills are headed to the Senate, where they face opposition from Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive. He outlined that opposition in an editorial this week.
He said Thursday that there wasn't overwhelming Senate support for a similar package introduced by two Senators yesterday, and he did not plan to hold hearings on the bills. Asked if there were support for the House package, he said, "There's no support for that over here, either."
The House open records bills would have to get past the Senate and earn a signature from Gov. Rick Snyder to become law.
The legislation earned praise from interest groups, including progressive advocacy group Progress Michigan.
"We're pleased that this legislation passed the House, but we've been in this situation before and seen these policies blocked by Republican leadership in the Senate. Even though these bills are a watered-down attempt at transparency, we need to take a step forward as a state and these policies at least move in that direction," said Lonnie Scott, the group's executive director.