Michigan House Republicans
During Sunshine Week, Rep. Martin urges action on plan to boost government transparency
RELEASE|March 11, 2024
Contact: David Martin

State Rep. David Martin today highlighted a plan he introduced last month to expand the scope of Michigan’s open records laws to cover all of state government and create a new nonpartisan commission to ensure a fair and truly transparent system.

Michigan is just one of two states where the Legislature and the governor’s office are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or another similar open records requirement.

Martin’s plan would subject legislators, the governor and lieutenant governor to the same FOIA requirements that elected officials and employees in other areas of state and local government are expected to follow. It also makes several other changes to improve the process for residents who seek access to public records at all levels.

“As a Genesee County Commissioner, I was accountable and transparent to Michigan taxpayers by being subject to FOIA,” said Martin, R-Davison. “I have absolutely nothing to hide, and none of our other elected officials should either. It’s well past time to make it easier for the people we represent to access important information about the work we’re doing on their behalf.”

Martin sponsored the House Bills 5422-5427 alongside Reps. Tom Kuhn (R-Troy), Jaime Greene (R-Richmond), Donni Steele (R-Orion Township), Mark Tisdel (R-Rochester Hills), and Alicia St. Germaine (R-Harrison Township).

In addition to expanding the scope of FOIA, the bills would:

  • Create the Open Government Commission to oversee FOIA requests and appeals. The commission would review all FOIA requests pertaining to the state Legislature and governor’s office. Members would include legislators, governor appointees, as well as representatives from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, Michigan Press Association and Michigan Coalition for Open Government to ensure a fair process. The commission would have authority to investigate complaints, issue binding opinions, and impose penalties.
  • Strengthen the public’s ability to take action when government improperly withholds information. HB 5422 would streamline the FOIA appeals process, shorten the response time for appeals by limiting it to 10 days after receiving the written appeal, allow for civil action if a public body fails to disclose requested information, ensure that attorney fees from appeals are completely covered by successful appeals, and allow for a reduction of fees that exceed the amount permitted under the public body’s available procedures and guidelines.
  • Add accountability measures surrounding FOIA exemptions. When a public body chooses to invoke any exemptions, it would be required to provide a complete statement explaining why the exemption applies and why the public interest in nondisclosure outweighs the public interest in disclosure in the particular instance. It also clarifies that contact information for officials, employees, contractors, or vendors of a public body are not exempt.
  • Streamline FOIA procedures. HB 5426 would require public records to be provided in electronic format unless it would significantly increase the fee charged to the requestor. If production in electronic format would increase the fee by more than $20, or 10%, whichever is greater, the public body shall give the requester an option of electronic or alternative format. It also limits the circumstances for which a fee can be charged for reviewing and removing exempt information from public records.
  • Establish clear responsibilities for FOIA coordinators. HB 5426 clearly establishes the documentation a FOIA coordinator is required to keep, including all written requests for public records, all the public body’s responses to requests for public records, records of all dates on which requested public records were produced, and records of all fees charged to produce public records. The plan would also require public bodies to post FOIA records on their websites. Those without websites must make those records available for inspection by the public.
  • Increase penalties for public bodies that don’t comply with FOIA. Fines currently range from $2,500 to $7,500. Martin’s plan increases the maximum fine to $25,000 for public bodies that willfully or negligently fail to comply with FOIA requests. It also increases fines for any public body that violates FOIA multiple times within a two-year period, setting minimum fines at $7,500 for a second violation, $10,000 for a third violation and $15,000 for a fourth or subsequent violation.

The Democrat leadership in the Michigan House referred the plan to the Government Operations Committee, where bills are often sent to die.

Martin said failing to take action is a disservice to the people of Michigan.

“Michigan’s current transparency laws are failing our residents,” Martin said. “Government records, especially those of our highest-ranking officials, are kept hidden from public view, while legitimate requests for transparency are met with bureaucratic hurdles. It’s time to cut through the red tape and bring transparency to the forefront. By clarifying, modernizing, and expanding our Freedom of Information Act, we can ensure that the people of Michigan have access to the information they need to hold their government accountable.”

Sunshine Week, observed each March, highlights the need for transparency and accountability at all levels of government. March 10-16 marks the occasion this year.


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