Last week was Sunshine Week, which is dedicated to advocating for more government transparency and ethics. Several piece of legislation were introduced and discussed at Michigan’s Capitol, including bills to expand Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act and to require personal financial disclosures from Michigan politicians.
Michigan Radio commentator Jack Lessenberry has authored an excellent piece about why this matters:
When it comes to ethics and integrity in government, Michigan is a disgrace. That’s not just my opinion. A little over a year ago, the Center for Public Integrity ranked our legislature worst among the fifty states in an analysis of state government transparency and accountability. We have few restraints on legislative behavior.
Lawmakers often do the bidding of lobbyists, knowing they will be term-limited out of a job in a few short years. Paul Opsommer, while chair of the House Transportation Committee, did everything he could to prevent the construction of a new bridge over the Detroit River. As soon as he left the legislature, he took a job as a lobbyist for Matty Moroun, the owner of the existing Ambassador Bridge, who wants to preserve his monopoly.
That would have been illegal had Opsommer been a congressman. So would many other things Michigan lawmakers do. Well, Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint recently introduced legislation to hold Michigan legislators to the standards Congressmen are held. My guess is that most voters have no idea there’s a difference.