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FOIA bills pass House committee, may not make it much further

Government records revealed under the Freedom of Information Act.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

A battle is brewing in the state legislature over government transparency for the governor and legislature.


A large package of Freedom of Information bills that passed a House committee Thursday will likely be halted in the state Senate. 


Spear header and bill sponsor, Rep.Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, said this legislation is crucial for Michigan.


“When a decision is made and it impacts the quality of life of a person here in Michigan they have the right to know why and how that decision was made.”


Michigan has faced criticism for coming dead last in a national study of state ethics and transparency laws in 2015. It is one of only two states that completely exempts the governor and legislature from freedom of information requests.


But Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof , R-Olive Twp., has already expressed dissatisfaction with expanding Michigan’s transparency laws to the legislature.


“I don’t really think it’s necessary, you know, we already provide everything on our salaries, our benefits, our staff – every tax dollar is debated openly, publicly,” he said. “I don’t know what more it is that can be gained.”


Meekhof said he is willing to look at the legislation, but he stalled similar legislation last year.


Moss was unfazed saying, “It’s gonna become irrelevant soon what I think or what any leader in the legislature might think if the citizens push this forward.”


Moss went on to say that he is willing to work with members of the Senate to move the legislation forward.


Almost the entire state House announced their support when the package was introduced. Moss said he expects the bill to pass through the House with ease, possibly as soon as next week.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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