Two ballot initiatives aimed at making Michigan government more transparent are put on hold

click to enlarge Lansing State Capitol Building in Michigan under the cover of darkness. - McKeeDigital, Shutterstock
McKeeDigital, Shutterstock
Lansing State Capitol Building in Michigan under the cover of darkness.

Advocates for public transparency are delaying the launch of two ballot initiatives that would have expanded the Freedom of Information Act and limited the influence of lobbyists in Lansing.

The group Close Lansing Loopholes had hoped to collect enough signatures to force a ballot proposal so voters could decide on the issues in November 2022, but a related court case consumed the time they needed to launch the initiatives.

The new goal is to get the issues on the 2024 ballot.

“This was not an easy decision and not one we make lightly because we deeply care about bringing FOIA and lobbying reform to Michigan,” Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, the lead organization behind Close Lansing Loopholes, said in a statement.

One of the initiatives called for extending the state’s Freedom of Information Act to include the Legislature and governor’s office. Michigan is one of two states that don’t require the governor’s office or Legislature to respond to public records requests.

Nearly every year, state lawmakers pledge to make themselves and the governor subject to FOIA, but the bills are stalled every time.

The other initiative would ban lobbyists from giving gifts to lawmakers, require a two-year cooling-off period before lawmakers could become lobbyists, define lobbyists as anyone who spends more than $1,000 to influence legislation, and mandate the reporting of lobbyist-legislator interactions.

Supporters of the initiatives were waiting for the Michigan Supreme Court to rule on a lawsuit that challenged a Republican-led law in 2018 that imposed limitations on the collection of signatures for ballot initiatives. In late January, the court ruled that the limitations were unconstitutional.

“Given the late timing in our court case win, we don’t feel we have the capacity to get the required signatures in time for the 2022 ballot,” Scott said. “That, coupled with an incredibly crowded ballot environment, led us to the decision to wait to pursue these initiatives. We’re disappointed we won’t be out collecting signatures this year, but still fully plan on talking to folks across the state about these important issues and looking to the 2024 ballot.”

He added, “Given what we’ve seen in state government over the last few years, from Lee Chatfield to the Flint Water Crisis, it should be clear to everyone that we need more transparency and accountability in Lansing and though it won’t happen this year, we still plan to deliver that for the people of Michigan.”

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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