Legislature Slowly Trying to Increase State Transparency

Michigan is one of the least transparent states in the country. Can the government change that?

Of course they can but for decades calls for more government transparency have been left unanswered.

Thursday a small step was taken. A pack of bills read in committee aimed at streamlining the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.Foia Bills Pkg 4 14 2200 00 26 25still001

It should be simple, transparency in government. Everybody wants it so why doesn’t Michigan have much of it? Michigan has some of the worst transparency across the nation but now the government is trying to take a little steps to shine some more light and government but is it enough for what the public wants now?

“If it’s a public record, it’s available,” said Rep. Jack O’Malley after the House Oversight committee meeting.

Available but is it accessible? Or easily so? Not so much in Michigan. Depending on the rankings, the state is at or near the bottom of government transparency. Many aspects of the government are exempt from releasing information and those that do, can make FOIA requests a pain.

“FOIA was set up so that the average citizen can get information if they need it,” said O’Malley. But these requests can be costly and take a long time and can be difficult to begin and follow up on.

Thursday the House Oversight committee looked at five bills trying to chip away at the problem.

“That’s what we’re trying to do here is adjust these rules that have been going now since 1976,” said O’Malley, “Maybe we need to adjust them a little bit.”

The bills would make paying FOIA fees easier, take away intentional delays and make FOIA coordinators more accessible.

“Where is my FOIA request? What’s happening to it? I know ‘Hey Eric is the guy need to talk to let me talk to him,’” said O’Malley, “As opposed to just a nameless, faceless bureaucrat.”

Will these bills place Michigan at the top of the rankings? No, the legislature and executive branches are still exempt and all efforts to change that have failed. But they are a step closer.

“We want to make sure that the government agency is not using trickery, if you will, or other means to not give you the information that you need,” said O’Malley.

While these bills were just introduced in committee it’s going to be a while before there’s any movement, and any movement on anything, as the House is not in session all of next week.