Two ballot initiatives that are being launched by advocates for public transparency would have expanding the Freedom of Information Act and thus limited the influence of lobbyists in Detroit.
Ballot Initiatives and Close Lansing Loopholes
Hoping to collect enough signatures is the group Close Lansing Loopholes. It would force a ballot proposal so the voters could, in fact, decide on the issues in November 2022. However, there is a related court case that has consumed the time they need to launch the initiatives. On the 2024 ballot, the new goal is to get those issues on it.
FOIA and Lobbying Reform
“In fact, this was not an easy decision. Therefore, we do not make it lightly. It is because we deeply care about bringing FOIA and lobbying reform to Michigan,” Lonnie Scott. Scott is executive director of Progress Michigan. It is the lead organization behind Close Lansing Loopholes, said in a statement.
Actually, one of the initiatives calling for extending the state’s Freedom of Information Act. That would include the Legislature and governor’s office. Moreover, Michigan is one of two states that does not require the governor’s office or Legislature to respond to public records requests.
Nearly every year, state lawmakers pledge to make themselves and the governor subject to FOIA, but the bills are stalling every time.
Also, the other initiative would ban lobbyists from giving gifts to lawmakers. It would require a two-year cooling-off period before lawmakers could become lobbyists, then define lobbyists as anyone who spends more than $1,000 to influence legislation, and plus mandate the reporting of lobbyist-legislator interactions.
Also, the supporters of the initiatives were actually waiting for the Michigan Supreme Court to rule on a lawsuit that challenged a Republican-led law in 2018. It did impose limitations on the collection of signatures for ballot initiatives. In late January, the court did rule that the limitations were unconstitutional.
“Also, given the late timing in our court case win, we don’t really feel we have the capacity to get the requiring signatures in time for the 2022 ballot,” Scott said. “That, coupled with a vastly crowded ballot environment. It has led us to the decision to wait to pursue these initiatives. In fact, we were disappointing we won’t be out collecting signatures this year. However, we still fully plan on talking to folks across the state about these important issues. Also, we look forward to the 2024 ballot.”