Bipartisan bills seek FOIA reform, increased transparency in state government

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | C&G Newspapers | Published February 21, 2024


SOUTHFIELD — Michigan is one of two states where the governor’s office and lawmakers are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

The law, established in 1976, states that people “are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and public employees, consistent with this act. The people shall be informed so that they may fully participate in the democratic process.”

Sens. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, and Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, said they are striving for more.

They said they want to increase transparency in Michigan’s government with the introduction of Senate Bills 669 and 670.

Moss and McBroom have served together in the Michigan House since 2015. They said the proposed bills aim to provide residents and journalists with improved state government transparency by allowing the public to request records from Michigan lawmakers and the governor’s office.

According to a press release by the Michigan Senate, SB 669 and 670 differ from past efforts. This new approach includes the Legislature in FOIA, instead of creating a separate open records act for the state House and Senate. The bill sponsors have reformed SBs 669 and 670 with newly added input from the office of the majority leader and the Senate Business Office.

On Feb. 7, the Senate Oversight Committee held a meeting for Moss and McBroom to share their testimonies on the bills. During the meeting, concerns were expressed that the bills contain special exemptions for the Legislature and governor’s office that are too broad and should be amended before moving forward.

The same day, House Bills 5422-5427 were introduced by House Republicans. This bill package would implement a set time frame for governments to produce records. It would increase fines and penalties for public bodies that fail to comply with FOIA requests and support individuals’ ability to take civil action when the government withholds information. It aims to hold government officials accountable by creating an open government commission of mixed political parties and media entities to review FOIA requests regarding the state Legislature and governor’s office. The commission would investigate complaints, issue binding opinions and impose penalties.

“The reality is that there is a Michigan problem here because of the lack of disclosure and transparency from the Legislature and governor’s office in this law. And so it’s elevated through the Flint water crisis and other successive issues that were unique to Michigan,” Moss said. “I am proud to have raised these early alarms on this to the point where people know what you’re talking about when you say ‘FOIA’ in Lansing and ‘FOIA reform.’ And so we’re, hopefully, on the last leg of a very long journey of getting this done.”

“The growth and persistence of support for more transparency in our state government shows how much the public expects and demands us to pass this legislation now,” said McBroom in a statement. “Having laws requiring openness of our government actions and records is a statement of our values in this government of, by, and for the people: it is their government and they must have the right and tools to hold it accountable. In these times of skepticism and cynicism toward our government and elected leaders it is imperative we seek real reforms to empower the citizens and show our faithful execution of our oaths to them.”

State Rep. Tom Kuhn, R-Troy, was joined by Republican Reps. Jaime Greene, Donni Steele, Mark Tisdel, David Martin, and Alicia St. Germaine in introducing their plan, which would create the Open Government Commission to oversee FOIA requests and appeals.

“All of our state government needs to be subject to FOIA requests, plain and simple,” said Kuhn. He said a “lack of transparency and accountability is completely unacceptable. Our plan allows for added public oversight of all government and increases penalties for non-compliant public bodies.”

Stacey LaRouche, the press secretary for the governor’s office, said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer “believes that state government must be open, transparent, and accountable to taxpayers. She is the first governor in state history to voluntarily disclose personal financial information, income tax returns, travel records, and public calendars online.”

For more information on SBs 669 and 670, visit and search ‘669’ and ‘670’.

For more information on House Bills 5422-5427, visit and search ‘5422’ and ‘5427.’