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Michigan Congress expected to vote on FOIA bills soon

LANSING, Mich. (SINCLARE BROADCAST GROUP) - The Michigan House members are expected to pass new bills that would make the Michigan state government more transparent.

The bills would open up the governor's office, allowing Freedom of Information requests and Political Reporter Nick Minock investigates what the bills would actually do.

By many accounts, Michigan's state government is the least transparent in the country.

Lawmakers in the Michigan state House are working on bills that would change that, but buried inside their legislation are exemptions that concern some in the executive branch.

Michigan Association of Broadcasters President Karole White said, "The common citizen doesn't realize that in other countries, if you speak out against your government, you can be killed. Freedom of information is important to every single citizen."

White is calling on lawmakers to allow the public to access and gain information from the state government.

White said, "It's not the local broadcaster that files all the FOIA requests, it's business people, it's common people. They file far more FOIA requests than what the broadcasters do."

FOIA keeps citizens in the know about their government, but right now, Michigan is one of the only state's that doesn't allow you to FOIA the offices of the governor, the lieutenant governor and the legislature.

House Republicans and Democrats are trying to change that.

Rep. Joe Bellino, R-Monroe, said, “I was on a community college board for 15 plus years and we got FOIA'd a lot. And we had to file all the documents all the time. Why is it different for a community college than it is for a state legislator? I think the governor, lieutenant governor, U.S. and state senate are a little more important than a community college in Monroe, which is a very good school. We should be able to get FOID'd, too.”

Built into the House bill is what some call a blanket exemption that would allow some state lawmakers to hide information from a FOIA request.

Republican Curt Vanderwall is one of the authors.

Vanderwall, R-Ludington, said, “I don't think it's a blanket exemption. I think there are certain issues that. If there's a private meetings or discussions with constituents those need to remain private."

White says the MAB will give the FOIA bills a thumbs up, for now.

White said, “We wouldn't want to hold up what we really feel is important, open of the governor's office, because we can't get the whole pie."

The Michigan House is expected to vote on the FOIA bills next week, but the bills face an uncertain fate in the Michigan senate, where the senate majority leader has expressed some concerns.

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