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House ethics hearings continue; a proposed amendment would require voter approval

Picture of the Lansing capitol building
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Replacing the Michigan Business Tax is high on the legislature's agenda

A legislative committee is moving ahead with measures to enact stricter ethics standards for Michigan lawmakers and the people who work for them, including restraints on the ability to move directly from the Legislature to lobbying former colleagues.

“It may not be perfect in many people’s minds, but it is moving ahead in a direction that I think is more transparent and that can hold those of us that are elected to office more accountable,” said Representative Ann Bollin (R-Brighton), who chairs the House Elections and Ethics Committee.

One of the bills adopted Tuesday would also extend conflict-of-interest rules to top legislative staffers.

The committee also moved closer to approving a resolution to allow the House and the Senate to take a wider range of actions against lawmakers who are chronically absent or responsible for other types of misconduct. The sanctions could include docking a lawmaker’s pay. 

“Without a range of tools at our disposal, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for our institution to appropriately address unethical conduct by the people’s elected representatives,” said Representative Donna Lasinski (D-Saline), the state House minority leader.

She said not every type of misconduct deserves expulsion, and taking away committee assignments won’t matter to a lawmaker who’s not showing up for work. Any sanctions would have to approved by two-thirds super-majority votes.

“I’m comfortable because of the two-thirds majority vote, that it could not occur in a way that is purely partisan,” said Lasinski. 

The sanctions measure would require amending the Michigan Constitution. If adopted by the House and the Senate, it would go on the November 2022 ballot for voter approval.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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