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Ballot initiative aims to tighten lobbyist influence on Michigan lawmakers

Ballot initiative aims to tighten lobbyist influence on Michigan lawmakers
Posted at 2:33 PM, Jan 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-24 14:33:18-05

A group in Michigan is looking to change the law and curb lobbyist influence on legislators in Michigan.

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The Coalition to Close Lansing Loopholes, from Progress Michigan, launched a ballot initiative on Thursday that would tighten rules for lawmakers and lobbyists in Lansing.

“What we’re proposing will provide more transparency for the public, so they can see how lobbyists are trying to influence their elected officials, while taking other steps to create a more accountable government for the people,” Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott said in a release.

Among the issues the proposal would change, it would prohibit lobbyists and their clients from giving anything of value to public officials or families.

It would make a 2-year "cooling off" period before elected officials could become lobbyists after leaving office.

Those would be covered under the proposal include: Governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state senators & representatives, Supreme Court justices, appeals court judges, state board of education members, public university trustees, regents & governors, or any other non-federal elective office with statewide duties. That means it would also include university presidents, the highest-ranking employee in the office of state senators and representatives, members of state boards and commissions and executive branch staff exempt from civil service.

This is not about one political party or one issue area," Scott added in the release. "We need to hold lawmakers and lobbyists, on both sides of the aisle and across the state to a high standard of trust and transparency.”

The details for the proposal are below.

  • Prohibit lobbyists & clients from giving anything of value to lawmakers and immediate families
  • Mandate a 2-year cooling off period before elected officials can become lobbyists after leaving office
  • Prohibit "contingency pay" for lobbyists, where pay depends on the success or failure of their work
  • Require lobbyists & clients to register and report lobbying expenditures
  • Require lobbyists & public officials to keep a public record log of their activities and communications
  • Require those logs to be kept for at least 6 years after the reports are filed
  • Require an identifier on all public communications which urge the general public to influence public officials
  • Give the Secretary of State the power to enforce the changes, implement penalites and create forms and procecures for the law

In 2015, the Center for Public Integrity ranked Michigan last in the country for government transparency.

The language would have to be approved by the Board of State Canvassers and then would need 425,059 signatures, equal to 10 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, to get on the ballot.