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House panel adopts first ethics bill for legislators

Michigan Capitol building in Lansing on a summer day.
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio
The Michigan Capitol building in Lansing.

There was action Tuesday in Lansing toward setting stricter ethical standards for legislators and the support appears to be bipartisan.

Republicans and Democrats on the House Committee on Elections and Ethics approved a bill to forbid lawmakers from voting on bills that would benefit themselves, family members, or business associates.

It’s not clear what the penalties for violating the standard would be. That bill now goes to the House floor.But Republican Representative Andrea Schroeder said this would move Michigan in the right direction.

“We all know that Michigan has ranked consistently low among other states for ethical standards and transparency for state officials,” she said.

Another bill awaiting committee action would create a two-year “cooling off” period where ex-lawmakers could not work as paid lobbyists.

“The goal of it is to ensure that while in office, legislators are working for their constituents, not working to secure subsequent employment, said Democratic Representative Laurie Pohutsky. “Michigan is one of only seven states without some version of a ‘cooling off’ period, although these periods do vary in terms of duration from state to state.”

Another bill would outlaw sitting Michigan lawmakers from accepting work lobbying in other state capitals and to increase the penalties for accepting gifts.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.