Glenn: Government transparency must be a priority in Michigan

By Rep. Annette Glenn
Published in the Midland Daily News

Last November, the people of Bay and Midland counties put their trust in me to represent their interests in Lansing as their new state representative. I respect that, and I want everyone to be able to hold me accountable.

That's why the first piece of legislation I introduced after taking office last month focuses on increasing government transparency.

Michigan is one of just two states that still exempts its governor, lieutenant governor and the Legislature from sunshine laws. Because of this exemption, Michigan ranks dead last in at least one study on government transparency and ethics. It's no wonder many residents don't have faith in their state government.

We must do better.

The solution I'm sponsoring will strengthen our system of government as a whole by requiring all elected state officials to become more transparent and accountable to the people. The plan, which was developed in a bipartisan manner, will subject the Legislature to a new Legislative Open Records Act (LORA) and the governor and lieutenant governor to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Under current law, people can request access to most public records from local governments, school districts and state departments through FOIA. It only makes sense for state officials to play by the same rules.

We're all here to serve the public, and the public has the right to monitor what we're doing and keep an eye on the way their hard-earned tax dollars are spent.

Just like some documents containing sensitive personal information are exempt from disclosure by local governments under the current FOIA law, the new LORA will exempt some records, including letters to and from people in the district. This way, people can still contact my office for help regarding personal problems without having to worry about their private information being made public.

A similar plan received unanimous, bipartisan support when it passed the House last year.

Unfortunately, the package died before reaching the governor's desk. Reintroducing the plan early this session illustrates our commitment to making government more transparent and this will be a top priority of mine until this legislation is signed into law.

Approving these much-needed reforms will bring more transparency to everything we do at the Capitol and go a long way toward restoring the public's confidence in their state government.

I respect the people's right to know, and I'm committed to serving with openness and honesty. These reforms will give people throughout Michigan the transparency they deserve.

Annette Glenn is a Republican serving the 98th District of the Michigan House of Representatives.

Click here for the op-ed.