WSW: Trying To Shine More Light On Government In Michigan

Mar 22, 2018

State Capitol - file photo
Credit Cheyna Roth / Michigan Public Radio Network

Jane Briggs-Bunting says the Freedom of Information Act should give the public access to records so they know what their elected representatives are doing. The problem is Michigan’s law exempts the state Legislature and the Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s office.


Briggs-Bunting is a former reporter, editor and journalism teacher. She is also the founding board president of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government. She wrote a column for Sunshine Week, March 11th through the 17th, about the lack of accountability in Michigan.

The state House has passed a bill that would expand Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act to make the Legislature, Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s office subject to the law. She says the bill would be a good first step in making Michigan more transparent and accountable.

But it doesn’t appear the bill is going to see action in the state Senate anytime soon. Briggs-Bunting says Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhoff has buried it by assigning it to his own government operations committee. Briggs-Bunting says citizens around state use FOIA to keep an eye on their government.

Beyond the law’s exemptions, Briggs-Bunting says there are other problems with Michigan’s FOIA law. They include the fees that can be charged by local governments, which sometimes make it cost-prohibitive to pursue government records and documents. Briggs-Bunting says there’s also nothing in the law that says when records have to be delivered.