The Freedom of Information Act requires government to release most information, such as email correspondence between government offices, documents and reports, police records, and so on. Obviously, there are exceptions. You can’t use FOIA to get other people’s Social Security numbers, for instance, or FOIA classified information from the CIA or FBI. In general, though, FOIA grants the public access to government information.
Except for the Michigan legislature and governor’s office. State laws have been carefully written to carve out the legislature and governor out of FOIA, which means the public can’t, say, demand the governor release all information from his office on the Flint water crisis. Gov. Rick Snyder did release pages of documents, but that was done by his choice, and there’s no way to know if he held back any information.
Most states do require their legislatures and governors to submit to open records act, but not Michigan. And that’s one reason why Michigan has been named worst in the nation in terms of accountability and transparency.
Think it’s time for that to change? Actually, many in the legislature do, too.
Today, a bipartisan group of legislators came together to introduce a package of legislation that would strengthen Michigan’s FOIA laws and subject the legislature and governor to them:
In a statement, House Democratic Leader Sam Singh said:
“It is shameful that Michigan is one of only two states that allow the Governor and legislature to hide behind a veil of secrecy – it is time to shed a light on the back room deals and inner workings of our state government so that politicians can be held accountable when they put special interests ahead of the people they are supposed to serve. While this legislation is a step forward, Democrats know that much more must be done fight corruption and ensure government is worthy of the trust Michiganders put in us.”