Mackinac Center and Sierra Club Call For More Transparency in Michigan Government

Joint Free Press op-ed explains transparency efforts

The Mackinac Center and Sierra Club often hold different positions on policy, but have come together to call for a more transparent and accountable government. The Detroit Free Press recently published an op-ed written by David Holtz, chairman of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, and Michael Reitz, executive vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

In the piece, the authors discuss a package of bills moving through the Michigan Legislature that would make state government more accountable to the people and remove hurdles that have hindered journalists and activists from gaining a complete picture of what created the Flint water crisis. House Bills 5477 and 5478, introduced by Reps. Ed McBroom and Jeremy Moss, respectively, would make the governor subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

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A separate set of bills would establish the Legislative Open Records Act, to which Holtz and Reitz offered some recommendations to “improve the review process, clarify the definition of a 'public record,' and eliminate new loopholes.”

First, the current bill draft provides a review process if the Legislature denies a person access to records or if it charges an exorbitant fee. … We believe a robust public records law for the Legislature will give people the ability to take their case before a judge just as the current FOIA law provides for access to records of state agencies.

Second, the LORA language defines the term “public record” in a unique manner: It is “a writing … that has been in the possession of the public body for 15 days or more.” … Public records shouldn’t have a maturation period. Under FOIA, agencies are already permitted to take up to 15 days to provide a public record. The Legislature should adopt a similar approach.

Read the full op-ed in the Detroit Free Press.

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