Leaders from both parties in the House today announced agreement on a sweeping package of reforms to state ethics and transparency laws. The legislative leaders have committed to making the reforms a top priority over the coming weeks.
“When you get outside of the small Lansing and Capitol community and tell people back home how their state government operates, you really see how bizarre some of our rules are and why so many people are losing their faith in government,” said Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth. “We must do better and hold ourselves to a higher standard. We must listen to the people who sent us here and understand why they are losing faith. That is why ethics reform has been one of my top priorities, and why we are all working together now to raise the bar in state government and make our entire system more open, honest and accountable to the people we serve.”
“The people are asked too often to simply trust that elected officials are acting in the public interest and holding themselves accountable. That’s a failed, unacceptable system,” said House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski. “These reforms represent meaningful, if incremental, steps that will help restore citizens’ faith in our government by increasing transparency and demanding high ethical standards from public servants. It’s long past time to stop talking about reform in Lansing and start taking action. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see that these reforms become law.”
Some of the reforms announced today have already begun moving in the state Legislature, including the expansion of the Freedom of Information Act and changes to the ‘lame duck’ legislative session. Other proposed reforms, which were developed over two years in consultation with the group Voters Not Politicians, include:
- New penalties for illegal gifts
- Lobbying disclosures
- Raising ethical standards for legislators and lobbyists, including on conflicts of interest
- New penalties for legislators who fail to show up for the job or act unethically
- Financial disclosures for lawmakers and state officers
- Closing the “revolving door” for legislators and heads of departments
- Permanent, equally bipartisan ethics committees in the Legislature to investigate public complaints and ensure compliance.
“For too long, Michigan has lacked even basic laws that give voters the information we need to know how politicians make decisions and whether they are serving our interests,” said Nancy Wang, the executive director of Voters Not Politicians. “That’s why for two years, Voters Not Politicians has worked with the leaders of both parties to build support for a comprehensive package of ethics, transparency, and accountability reforms. We expect and encourage our legislators to work together in a bipartisan manner to pass these reforms into law as swiftly as possible. These bills won’t solve all of the problems in Lansing, but they will be an important first step to put us on the right track to ensure our politicians are accountable to us.”
The reforms announced today will be introduced later this week and discussed in committee beginning next week.