State Rep. Mark Tisdel celebrated Sunshine Week on Tuesday by introducing a sweeping plan to make Michigan government more transparent and accountable to the people of the state.
The government reform plan would extend state open records laws to the governor’s office and Legislature, require key state officials to disclose their finances, boost ethics requirements to prevent conflicts of interest, and prohibit lawmakers and other officials from becoming lobbyists immediately after leaving office. Tisdel, R-Rochester Hills, spearheaded similar efforts last term that passed the Republican-led House.
“Transparency empowers the people of Michigan to observe what their government leaders are doing and hold them accountable,” Tisdel said. “As state representative, I’ve championed sunshine reforms to open more of our state government to Michiganders’ watchful eyes. Opening the records of the governor and lawmakers, establishing financial disclosure for state officials, preventing conflicts of interest, and closing Lansing’s revolving door will give knowledge and power to the people.”
Tisdel is the lead sponsor of House Bill 4270, which prohibits former legislators from becoming lobbyists within two years after leaving office.
“Michiganders should be able to trust that their state officials are focused on serving the people — not lining up their next job,” Tisdel said. “My common-sense plan will prioritize the needs of the people of Michigan and lock the legislator-to-lobbyist revolving door.”
The overall plan, contained in HBs 4261-4272, would provide greater transparency and firmer ethical standards by:
- Opening state records: Michigan is currently one of two states whose Freedom of Information Act does not allow citizens to obtain government records from the Legislature or governor’s office. House Republicans’ plan would subject the governor, lieutenant governor, and legislators to open records requests.
- Disclosing officials’ finances: With two-thirds of voters in support, the people of Michigan overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to require the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and legislators to disclose their finances publicly — a proposal placed on the ballot by Tisdel and fellow legislators. The new legislation would implement Proposal 1 and require state officials to file an annual report describing their assets and liabilities; sources of earned and unearned income; positions held in organizations other than religious, political, social, and fraternal entities; agreements for future employment, continued or deferred payments from past or current employers, and other employment arrangements; and gifts and travel payments from lobbyists.
- Eliminating conflicts of interest: The House Republican plan would expand current conflict of interest laws to prohibit a lawmaker from voting on any measure that would provide a substantial financial benefit particular to the legislator, an immediate family member, or a person or entity to whom the legislator owes a legal or financial obligation. Bipartisan ethics committees in the House and Senate would ensure legislators comply with the ethical requirements.
- Closing the revolving door: Former legislators and cabinet officials often take lobbying jobs soon after leaving office, and in recent years, one legislator was even paid to lobby in other states while still in office. The legislation would bar lawmakers from lobbying out of state and prohibit departed legislators and state department heads from becoming lobbyists for at least two years.
Sunshine Week, observed each March, highlights the need for transparency and accountability at all levels of government. March 12-18 marks the occasion this year.