Public transparency advocates are delaying the launch of two ballot initiatives that would have expanded the Freedom of Information Act and limited the influence of lobbyists in Lansing.
The group Closing Lansing loopholes had hoped to collect enough signatures to force a ballot proposal so voters could decide the issues in November 2022, but a related court case took the time they needed to get the initiatives off the ground.
The new goal is to get the questions about the 2024 ballot.
“This was not an easy decision and not one we take lightly because we care deeply about bringing FOIA and lobbying reform to Michigan,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. , the lead organization behind Close Lansing Loopholes, in a statement.
One of the initiatives called for expanding the state’s freedom of information law to include the legislature and the governor’s office. Michigan is one of two states that does not require the governor’s office or the legislature to respond to requests for public records.
Almost every year, state lawmakers pledge to submit themselves and the governor to FOIA, but the bills get stuck every time.
The other initiative would ban lobbyists from giving gifts to lawmakers, require a two-year cooling-off period before lawmakers can become lobbyists, define lobbyists as anyone who spends more than $1,000 to influence legislation, and mandate reporting of lobbyist-legislator interactions.
Supporters of the initiatives have been waiting for the Michigan Supreme Court to rule on a lawsuit challenging a Republican-led law in 2018 that placed limits on collecting signatures for ballot initiatives. In late January, the court ruled that the limitations were unconstitutional.
“Given the delay in our court victory, we do not believe we have the ability to secure the required signatures in time for the 2022 ballot,” Scott said. “That, coupled with an incredibly crowded voting environment, led us to the decision to hold off on pursuing these initiatives. We are disappointed not to be collecting signatures this year, but we still plan to talk to people across the state about these important issues and look forward to the 2024 ballot.”
He added, “Given what we have seen in state government over the past few years, from Lee Chatfield to the Flint water crisis, it should be clear to everyone that we we need more transparency and accountability at Lansing and even that won’t happen. this year we are still planning to provide this to people in Michigan.