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October 18 • 04:13 PM
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State's miserable FOIA exemption must go



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February 08, 2017
Whether its information from the Environmental Protection Agency or National Parks Service on the federal level or emails to and from the governor's office regarding the Flint water crisis or phone records and appointment schedules of elected officials, taxpayers have a right to know what their legislators are up to.

Unfortunately, that right has been and remains denied in the Great Lakes State, one of just two in the entire country where both lawmakers and the governor are exempted from Freedom of Information Act inquiries (FOIA).

While it makes sense that documents like medical records and other sensitive communications should be exempt, to stretch that exemption to include every single record involving our legislators and governor is downright appalling. The people who put those officials have a right to know what they're doing while on the taxpayers' dime.

Last year, State Rep. Gary Howell joined and co-sponsored a package of bills that would make the executive branch subject to FOIA and create a similar records disclosure apparatus for the House and Senate called the Legislative Open Records Act (LORA). The package was passed by the House but died in the Senate. Howell and a bipartisan group of legislators have re-introduced an 11-bill package that would make our state government more transparent.

Government does not exist in a vacuum, nor should secrecy be tolerated when it comes to elected officials whose salaries come from taxpayers' hard-earned dollars.

Now is the time to again apply pressure on Senators Mike Green and Phil Pavlov and all others to lift the veil. The public has a right to access information that reflects what their elected officials are up to, who they're being influenced by—or not—and the issues that affect them. Anything less is unacceptable in an open democracy.

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