It’s Sunshine Week – a time of year when issues of transparency and open government are put front and center.
Democrats in the state House and Senate celebrated on Tuesday by announcing a package of bills they say will make Michigan government more transparent and accountable.
Part of the bill package would require all state-elected officials to disclose their personal finances. Bill sponsor Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren) said they want to catch up with 47 other states that currently require some form of financial disclosure.
“We’re the only state in the union by the way with a full time legislature that doesn’t have a requirement for financial disclosure,” he said. “And that’s really pretty deplorable.”
Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) said these changes would help with Michigan’s dismal reputation when it comes to transparency. The Center for Public Integrity ranks Michigan last on government transparency laws.
“If the voters know, if the public knows, if you know about my interest there, then you can watch my behavior and hold me accountable,” LaGrand said. “If you don’t know, how are you supposed to hold me accountable?”
Another bill would require presidential candidates to release their most recent tax returns to get on the state ballot. This comes after President Donald Trump refused to make his tax returns public during and after the election. Several other states – Maryland, New York, California, Massachusetts, and Maine — have introduced similar legislation.
The state House is also expected to vote this week on whether to subject the governor and legislature to freedom of information laws.