Mar 29, 2024 - News

FOIA Friday: Michigan public records reform advances

Illustration of the acronym FOIA with an eye that's looking around and blinking standing in for the O.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Michigan lawmakers are finally working to open themselves and the governor's office to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Why it matters: Senate Bills 669 and 670 would end wholesale exemptions from public records requests that shield the governor, lieutenant governor and state lawmakers.

  • The exemptions allow them to govern with less public scrutiny.

Catch up quick: The state Senate's ethics committee approved the bills this month, teeing them up for a vote in the full Senate.

  • "This is the strongest version of the bills we've ever brought forward," bill sponsor Sen. Jeremy Moss tells Axios.
  • Unlike past efforts that focused on subjecting the governor's office to FOIA, this version also applies the law to the Legislature.

Context: Michigan consistently ranks among the nation's least transparent states because it is one of just two states where the Legislature and governor's office are exempt from records requests.

The other side: Republicans touted their own transparency package during the annual Sunshine Week this month. One proposal would change the state's FOIA law by creating a commission to review public records requests.

State of play: State leaders have worked to boost transparency in other ways.

  • The governor signed measures at the end of last year putting into law requirements passed by voters as part of Prop 1, which required lawmakers to file financial disclosure documents.
  • Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson recently unveiled the Michigan Transparency Network, the state's new online personal financial disclosure system, where officials and candidates are required to report details of their finances.

What's next: The Senate is expected to vote on FOIA reform after lawmakers return from a legislative break next month.


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