ACLU at the Michigan Capitol – March 25, 2016

A good thing happened in Lansing last week just in time for spring, ushering in the new season with an air of political optimism, and giving us a refreshing reprieve from pondering the emerging political landscape shaped by the presidential primary contests. Two committed Michigan lawmakers—from widely variant districts, with distinctly different views on political "touchstone" issues—showed Lansing how to work together.

I'm referring to Rep. Ed McBroom, a third-term Republican from Vulcan (in the Upper Peninsula) and a devout family man who made a living as a dairy farmer before entering politics and Rep. Jeremy Moss, a first-term Democrat, seasoned political voyager and progressive gay man who served as the youngest-ever elected councilperson for the City of Southfield.

For the past year, Reps. McBroom and Moss have been working together quietly and diligently to develop a legislation package that will increase transparency in our government and improve lines of communication between our elected officials and Michigan citizens.

On March 16, 2016 they gathered an impressive, bi-partisan, geographically and ideologically diverse group of 20 or so House and Senate members for a press conference announcing the introduction of a 10-bill package that would subject the Michigan legislature and governor’s office to Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which allows the public access to government documents.

Reforms to Michigan's FOIA laws have been a focal point for our lawmakers over the past five years, between Republicans and Democrats. In late 2013, early 2014, then-Rep. (now Sen.) Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, ushered through major revisions requiring robust accounting for FOIA requests, limiting the fees and charges that could be assessed and instituting an appeal process for denied requests. Still, in November 2015, the Center for Public Integrity gave Michigan an F grade in providing public access to information.

Certainly the Flint water crisis has brought to light the reasons for our failing grade and subsequently underscored our need for greater transparency in Michigan government, creating a perfect window of opportunity for Reps. McBroom and Moss to put aside partisanship and push FOIA reform to the forefront for the greater good.

I, for one, commend them. The package of bills represents a thoughtful, informed approach to creating public policy. And with more than 30 co-sponsors, this is an inclusive effort. that should hearten Michigan citizens, as I am, by its display of leadership.

I hope that this type of bi-partisan teamwork is not just seasonal and continues to flourish in Lansing.