State Rep. Jerry Neyer is part of a comprehensive House Republican plan unveiled this week that improves Michigan’s lackluster standing on government transparency through various common-sense ethics reforms.
The multi-bill package, which provides greater accountability for people as it pertains to their state government, works in harmony with Sunshine Week – which runs from March 12-18 and promotes greater access to public information.
“Rankings have shown a clear need for improvement, and the overwhelming passage of Proposal 1 last year sent a straightforward message – state government in Michigan needs to be more transparent and accountable to the people it is serving,” said Neyer, of Shepherd. “These plans are a good first step in providing people with transparency they deserve. Trust in government is at historic lows. We can and should do better.”
The bills work to shore up Michigan’s status as an outlier in terms of government transparency 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. 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. 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. More than 40 states currently ban the move from lawmaker to lobbyist for some period of time.
The ethics and transparency legislation is contained within House Bills 4261-72. Neyer’s bill is HB 4272, which prohibits a legislator from becoming a lobbyist in another state while serving in the Michigan Legislature. The proposals have been referred to the House Ethics and Oversight Committee for consideration.
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