State Rep. David Martin celebrated Sunshine Week by introducing a comprehensive plan to make state government more transparent and accountable to the people of Michigan.
The 12-bill government reform plan would extend state open records laws to the governor’s office and Legislature, require key state officials to disclose their finances, boost ethics requirements to prevent conflicts of interest, and prohibit lawmakers and other officials from becoming lobbyists immediately after leaving office.
Martin is the lead sponsor of House Bill 4271, which prohibits directors of state departments from becoming lobbyists within two years after leaving office.
“State department heads are supposed to be focused on serving the people of Michigan,” Martin said. “They can’t truly have the best interests of Michiganders at heart if they have one foot out the door on their way to a cushy job lobbying for a special interest group.”
The overall plan, contained in HBs 4261-4272, would provide greater transparency and firmer ethical standards by:
- Opening state records: Michigan is currently one of two states whose Freedom of Information Act does not allow citizens to obtain government records from the Legislature or governor’s office. House Republicans’ plan would subject the governor, lieutenant governor, and legislators to open records requests.
- Disclosing officials’ finances: With two-thirds of voters in support, the people of Michigan overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to require the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and legislators to disclose their finances publicly. The new legislation would implement Proposal 1 and require state officials to file an annual report describing their assets and liabilities; sources of earned and unearned income; positions held in organizations other than religious, political, social, and fraternal entities; agreements for future employment, continued or deferred payments from past or current employers, and other employment arrangements; and gifts and travel payments from lobbyists.
- Eliminating conflicts of interest: The House Republican plan would expand current conflict of interest laws to prohibit a lawmaker from voting on any measure that would provide a substantial financial benefit particular to the legislator, an immediate family member, or a person or entity to whom the legislator owes a legal or financial obligation. Bipartisan ethics committees in the House and Senate would ensure legislators comply with the ethical requirements.
- Closing the revolving door: Former legislators and cabinet officials often take lobbying jobs soon after leaving office. In recent years, one legislator was even paid to lobby in other states while still in office. The legislation would bar lawmakers from lobbying out of state and prohibit departed legislators and state department heads from becoming lobbyists for at least two years.
Sunshine Week, observed each March, highlights the need for transparency and accountability at all levels of government. March 12-18 marks the occasion this year.
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