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Transparency bills could see movement in new state legislative term

The Michigan state Senate room.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

The state Legislature could tackle a topic this term that it couldn’t get past the state Senate before. Some lawmakers – including new leaders – are making transparency a priority.

Last term, the state House unanimously voted to open the governor’s office and the Legislature up to Freedom of Information Act requests. But they ran into a major obstacle in the Senate.

Incoming Democratic Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) was a Representative last term.

“We need transparency advocates on the other end of the Capitol building, so we can finally get it done. So that we can stop consistently ranking last of all states in ethics and transparency and we can actually better serve the constituents,” says Moss.

This year, incoming Speaker of the House, Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), says the issue is still a priority,

“We need to ensure that the people we serve have access to what we’re doing here in our state. So I look forward to building that relationship and having that conversation and ensuring that we can get something done,” he says.

Chatfield might have an interested ear in the new Senate leadership.

Republican Senator Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) is cautious about the changes – though not opposed to transparency. He says the devil is in the details.

“Because of technology and because of the way we communicate, differentiating between personal emails, and business emails, and legislative emails and text messages for that matter – those are the kinds of things we have to be very careful about,” says Shirkey.

Shirkey says he’s concerned about potentially revealing people’s personal information.

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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