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State Democrats want to let the sunshine in with conflict of interest laws

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Mark K.
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It’s Sunshine Week – a time of year when issues of transparency and open government are put front and center.

 

Democrats in the state House and Senate celebrated the week Tuesday by announcing a package of bills they say will make Michigan government more transparent and accountable.

 

Part of the bills package would require all state-elected officials to disclose their personal finances.

 

Bill sponsor Senator Steve Bieda said they want to catch up with 47 other states that currently require some form of financial disclosure.

 

We’re the only state in the union by the way with a full time legislature that doesn’t have a requirement for financial disclosure,” he said. “And that’s really pretty deplorable.”

 

Representative David LaGrand said these changes would help with Michigan’s dismal reputation when it comes to transparency. The Center for Public Integrity ranks Michigan last on government transparency laws.

“If the voters know, if the public knows, if you know about my interest there, then you can watch my behavior and hold me accountable,” LaGrand said. “If you don’t know, how are you supposed to hold me accountable?”

 

Another bill would require presidential candidates to release their most recent tax returns to get on the state ballot. This comes after President Donald Trump refused to make his tax returns public during and after the election. Several other states – Maryland, New York, California, Massachusetts, and Main have introduced similar legislation.

 

The State House is also expected to vote this week on whether to subject the governor and legislature to freedom of information laws.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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