GUEST VIEW: Good governing requires openess

The following editorial was published in the April 3 edition of the Niles Daily Star:

(TNS) It’s nearly impossible to get Republican and Democrats to agree on almost anything these days, especially in today’s charged political atmosphere.

Last month, though, Lansing lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were able to get on the same page and stand in solidarity over an issue that has been neglected for far too long in Michigan.

The Michigan House of Representatives, in a 108-0 vote, approved a set of bills meant to increase transparency within the state legislature and governor’s office.

The package would, among other measures, allow citizens to submit Freedom of Information Act requests to legislators and members of the executive branch. It would clear the way for taxpayers to get a closer look at what their elected officials are up to, allowing them to see correspondences between officials and special interest groups or see what meetings lawmakers are having.

While state residents are able to submit such requests to local governmental agencies, such as city councils and township and school board of trustees, laws currently exempt the governor’s office from the same level of public scrutiny. In fact, Michigan is one of only two U.S. states without a law opening its legislative or executive branches to open record acts.

Sadly, in spite of the bipartisan alliance in the state House pushing through this bill package, it does not appear to stand much of a chance of passage through the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof has publicly stated his opposition to the package, and the committee he chairs has the ability to kill the legislation before it even makes it to Senate floor for a vote.

This is unacceptable.

Naturally, as a member of the Fourth Estate, we are in support of greater public access to information on our leadership’s operations. It allows us to serve our roles as watchdogs more effectively, which in turn makes leaders more accountable for their actions.

However, every person who contributes their hard earned dollars to Lansing deserves the ability to know exactly what their money is going towards.

If your representative or senator is meeting with lobbyists who are campaigning for laws that go against the interests of your community — on the clock, no less — you deserve to know about it. You deserve the right to hold your lawmakers to account for it, as well.

As the popular saying goes, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Leaders who can hide as little as possible from the people they represent will have a much greater incentive to govern in a way that best serves the public.

We hope that the public rallies behind efforts to increase the transparency of our state government. Perhaps with enough pressure, the powers that are trying to keep Lansing in the shadows will have no choice but to come into the light.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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