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State House passes bills to open up Legislature, governor's office to records requests

Picture of the Lansing capitol building
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Replacing the Michigan Business Tax is high on the legislature's agenda

Lawmakers in the state House unanimously passed a group of bills they say will make state government more transparent.  The bills would, in some cases, open the governor’s office up to freedom of information requests. They would also create a new Legislative Open Records Act to allow for some records requests from state lawmakers.

Representative Daire Rendon (R-Lake City) is a bill sponsor. She says Michigan is one of only two states that doesn’t allow for records requests from the governor and Legislature.

“It was necessary for us to be like everyone else and make government more accountable to the state of Michigan,” says Rendon.

Lonnie Scott is the executive director of Progress Michigan. That’s a progressive watchdog organization. He says they do believe the bills are a step forward. But they’re concerned that when it comes to the Legislature, if a records request is denied, any appeal would be handled internally by a special council.

“The Legislature has created their own system which really eliminates some of the checks and balances that are within our FOIA law which makes them work,” says Scott.

Entities that are subject to the existing freedom of information law can have appeals decided by judges.

The leader of the Republicans in the Senate, Senator Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), says their chamber will do something to improve transparency, but it probably won’t look like the bills the House passed. 

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