Proposal to expand FOIA to include governor and legislature in Michigan

Proposal would expand FOIA in Michigan
Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 6:04 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - In 48 states, the governor and the legislature are included in public records requests. Michigan though, is one of the other two.

“It’s sort of Michigan’s worst kept secret that we have some of the worst ethics and transparency policies in the entire country,” says Sam Inglot with ‘Progress Michigan’.

That’s why the liberal advocacy group is launching a petition drive to put a Freedom of Information Act expansion on the 2022 ballot.It would make the governor’s office and legislature subject to FOIA requests.

FOIA requests are often used in journalism to uncover documents that are shielded from the public eye.

“This is about transparency across the board, regardless of who is in power,” Inglot says. “There have been Republicans and Democrats in the legislature as well as the governor’s office who have been exempt from FOIA, and what we’re pushing is for transparency across the board,” Inglot said.

The departure of former health department director Robert Gordon from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration is just one example of the state refusing to be transparent with the taxpayers. Former Governor Rick Snyder’s administration stonewalled similar requests for information about his role in the Flint Water Crisis.

“We had to find a creative way to get access to some of those emails, and while Governor Snyder was exempt from FOIA, his chief of staff was not,” Inglot says. “We ended up doing was following the heads of departments, their communications.”

The FOIA exemption has been brought up for years. Progress Michigan hopes that it sticks this time. The group will need more than 425,000 petition signatures to get the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.

“At the end of the day, we’ve seen, year after year, cycle after cycle, session after session, no movement on this issue. So again, we’re done with the games, and we’re gonna take this question directly to the people,” he said.

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