Lawmakers move to reveal personal finances, but some fear “dilute” disclosure is on the horizon
LANSING (WXYZ) — In a surprise move Tuesday, lawmakers in both the House and Senate approved a ballot initiative that could bring Michigan in line with 48 other states in requiring some form of financial disclosure among elected leaders.
The resolution, approved by an overwhelming majority in both houses, would require the governor, the deputy governor, the secretary of state, the attorney general and members of the House and Senate to regularly disclose their personal finances to help identify any inconsistencies in
RELATED: State secrets: Michigan lawmakers are keeping their personal finances hidden
“We have seen time and time again where lawmakers have introduced bills that specifically address their personal industry or business,” said Senator Jeremy Moss (Democrat of Southfield), “or that they do not back down on a vote that could personally enrich their family.”
Moss has long sought to make the legislature more transparent, calling for the expansion of the Freedom of Information Act to include elected leaders as well as pushing for stronger ethical rules.
“If you don’t know anything about someone’s finances, when they introduce legislation, you have no idea if they would benefit financially from it,” said Simon de Schuster, executive director of the Michigan Finance Corporation. Network.
linked to term limits
The ballot initiative will go to voters next November and, if approved, would also change how long senators and representatives can serve in Lansing, reducing the total number of years from 14 to 12 years.
But it would allow members to spend more time in either chamber. Currently, lawmakers can serve up to six years in the House or eight years in the Senate. This suggestion would increase that number to 12.
As 7 Action News first reported over a year ago, legislators in Michigan and Idaho are the only ones in the country allowed to keep voters in the dark about how they make their money.
Critics say the failure to require disclosure makes it difficult to know if lawmakers have investments in the business, they may also organize or own stock in a company they may be required to agree to tax credits.
While Tuesday’s vote marks the biggest advance yet to provide a financial disclosure to Lansing, there are already signs that some are looking to limit how much they will have to share.
The original proposal called for lawmakers to provide the same detailed disclosure as members of Congress. But that has been deleted, and instead, Michigan lawmakers will set their own rules.
This means, for example, that travel paid for by dark money groups — such as the trips former House Speaker Lee Chatfield was said to have enjoyed for years in Lansing — could remain classified.
“I don’t think anyone would argue that this is not a watered down version of what was initially proposed,” Schuster said.
However, lawmakers such as Senator Moss are optimistic. After years of being ranked as the least transparent state in the country, he says there’s nowhere to go but up.
“I have served many years with far too many lawmakers who have committed so many ethical violations,” he said. “So we have to learn from those loopholes in the law.”
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