Battle Creek And Kalamazoo Area State Reps Push For Open Records
Battle Creek and Kalamazoo area lawmakers in the Michigan State House of Representatives seem to be on a mission. Representatives Jim Haadsma, Jon Hoadley, Brandt Iden, Beth Griffin, and Matt Hall, all voting in favor of a package of bills to make state government records and information more accessible. This time, it is a unanimous vote of all Republican majority party members and also, every single Democrat in the House. Few issues at the state capitol have brought the two parties together like this one. At least in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, where the package is now headed, it’s a bit different story.
This won’t be the first time this open records legislation has gone to the upper chamber and so far Senators have turned it down or just didn’t take action. But the clamoring around the state to get this done is growing. And as we reported earlier in the week, there’s a new public advocacy group pushing its own version of open records laws which it claims is more effective and leaves fewer loopholes than the one just approved again by the State House.
As things stand now, Michigan’s Governor and the legislature are exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests. Only two states allow that kind of governmental shielding from the public.
State House Speaker Jason Wentworth says the change is long overdue. Quoting now, “One of our top priorities is to regain the trust of the people of the state and this is a strong start. They deserve access to the records of their elected officials, and we intend to give it to them.”
Two bills in the package are co-sponsored by Democrat Jim Haadsma of Battle Creek. They deal with particular subjects that may be exempt from Freedom of Information requests based on constitutional protections.
The Detroit News reports that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is somewhat critical of the overall effect of the open records bills. She says there appear to be enough loopholes to bring the value of the proposed changes into question.