Schuitmaker, Jones introduce bills expanding FOIA to include Legislature, governor

LANSING, Mich. — State Sens. Tonya Schuitmaker and Rick Jones turned in legislation on Tuesday that would expand the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to include the governor’s office and the Legislature.

“People have a right to know what their government is doing, and that includes the governor and Legislature,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “This legislation would give citizens a better window into the activities of their elected leaders.”

Jones agreed.

“It is important to make state business transparent to the taxpayers,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “We need to bring Michigan in line with other states across the country.”

The bills would remove the current FOIA exemptions for the governor, lieutenant governor, and executive office employees and create a new part to the act, the Legislative Open Records Act, which would subject the Legislature to the disclosure provisions of FOIA.

“I have always supported increased government transparency and I publicly supported the House version of this legislation last year,” Schuitmaker said. “I look forward to once again working with my colleagues in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle to finally take this important step.”

Records currently exempt from disclosure under FOIA would remain exempt. Communications between constituents and legislators would also be exempt.

The timely introduction of these bills is appropriate as March 12 through March 19 is nationally recognized as “Sunshine Week,” which is an effort to promote open government.

Schuitmaker previously received the Michigan Press Association’s Sunshine Award in 2015 for her past efforts to promote openness and accountability. Jones received the award this year for introducing the Student Free Press and Civic Readiness Act in 2016. He intends to reintroduce the bill this year.

Senate Bills 246 and 247 will be formally read into the record on Wednesday.