Rep. Greg VanWoerkom today announced a plan to make state and local government more accessible and accountable to the people it serves.
VanWoerkom, of Norton Shores, helps sponsor new legislation that requires more transparency from Michigan’s elected leaders and improves the state’s Freedom of Information laws. The new proposals build upon the numerous ethics reforms approved by the House with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2021.
“These new reforms are specifically designed to make government more accessible and accountable to the Michigan families and taxpayers it works for and represents,” VanWoerkom said. “These changes – introduced during Sunshine Week – will shine a light on how government operates. That is an important step toward ensuring government works more efficiently and effectively for everyone.”
The latest proposals are contained in House Bills 5921-29. The plan would:
- Make FOIA requests more accessible to the public: The plan would streamline bureaucratic processes that frequently slow down requests for public records.Public bodies would be required to clearly post the name and contact information of their FOIA coordinator, accept electronic payments for documents requested under FOIA, and acknowledge that a record exists even if it is exempt from FOIA. If a FOIA request is denied, the plan requires a public body to bring up all reasons for denial at the time of the denial. It also clarifies that a public body cannot shield documents from FOIA by handing them over to legal counsel.
- Create stricter ethical standards for officials and candidates: Lobbyists would no longer be able to sponsor travel or lodging for state legislators. A political candidate’s immediate family members would be banned from receiving payments from campaign accounts.
- Increase transparency surrounding lobbyist and campaign spending: Lobbyists would be required to disclose money spent on partisan legislative staff. Detailed descriptions of campaign expenditures and disbursements would be required and made available to the public on the Secretary of State’s website.
The comprehensive list of reforms already approved by the House this legislative term includes improvements to ethical standards, financial disclosure requirements, bans on conflicts of interest, and an expansion of the freedom of information laws to include the Legislature and governor’s administration.
“The economic programs put forth by the governor today prove that jobs aren’t growing in Michigan, and Democrat policies passed this year are to blame. They have stripped away the fundamentals of low energy costs, competitive tax structure, and available talent.”
“Michigan residents, by way of local governments, should have a say in what goes on in their communities,” VanWoerkom said. “This deliberate attempt by House Democrats to silence their voices will inhibit locals from holding people accountable for the impact that solar and wind projects have on the local environment, economy, and quality of life.”
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