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Possible expansion of the FOIA

Posted at 5:23 PM, Mar 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-17 09:37:40-04

After the Flint Water Crisis and the Courser Gamrat scandal, Michigan's reputation is on the line.

"There have been questions about how government acts and when we should or shouldn't have the ability to shield ourselves," said Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield.

He, and other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, came together to create the Legislative Open Records Act.

It's basically the Freedom of Information Act, but it would now apply to the legislature, and the governor's office.

"We have not operated with this type of openness," Rep. Moss said. "And we've been ridiculed across the country for it.

So instead of legislators and the governor only releasing some information when they want, the public would now have access to it.

The bills won't work retroactively, so the public won't be able to access documents from before the bills go into effect. For example, the Courser Gamrat scandal or the Flint Water Crisis documents would not be subject to request.

But, the lawmakers, and those events, have put the idea of government transparency in the spotlight.

"I think that they've heightened the sensitivity to these issues of lack of transparency and lack of openness," Rep. Moss said.

Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, who was in charge of the Courser Gamrat hearings last year, is also sponsoring the bill, and says it will change the culture at the capitol.

"It's going to force people to make sure they're following all the rules to the letter now, because somebody can check on them," Rep. McBroom said.

He also thinks it will hold state officials more accountable.

"This is totally changing the rules of the game," Rep. McBroom said. "Everybody's going to have to learn those new rules, a new way to play, and it's going to affect things, there's no doubt about that."

Some records would be exempt, like personnel files and conversations with constituents.

The bills will be introduced in the House Thursday.