Advance Notice: Briefs

Bipartisan senators introduce proposal for permanent legislative oversight committee

By: - March 28, 2022 12:56 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Michigan would create a permanent bicameral, bipartisan legislative oversight committee under a proposal introduced Monday by Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Waucedah Twp.).

Senate Joint Resolution O would create the committee, which would include eight members total, two appointed by each chamber’s majority and minority leaders.

Sen. Ed McBroom | Michael Gerstein

The committee would have the power to investigate the “finances and performances of the government of this state and its subdivision” and would receive and request audits from the auditor general and the executive branch.

“Good government is impossible without good oversight. Our current system of legislative oversight relies mostly on politics and the personal preference of committee chairs,” Irwin said. “We have a responsibility to the people of Michigan to investigate the functions of government no matter who the governor is and what party they represent. Our plan puts accountability and the public interest first.”

Under Senate Bill 997, which would detail the committee’s powers, members would select two or four co-chairpersons, not more than half of whom could be from the same party or legislative chamber.

To avoid gridlock, the co-chairpersons would alternate as chair every three months.

The committee would meet at least quarterly, but could meet more frequently if the chairperson or a majority of its members saw fit.

The committee would have the power to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, and examine books and records.

Because SJR O would amend the Michigan Constitution, it would need at least two-thirds of the members of each chamber of the Legislature to be passed into law.

Irwin and McBroom said similar laws are in place in more than 10 other states, and cited a report by the Levin Center that noted while Michigan “possesses extensive resources that could facilitate legislative oversight … evidence suggests that legislative oversight is generally lax.”

“Due to term limits and the frequency of varied partisan power in Michigan, it is clear we need stronger safeguards to ensure consistency in government oversight,” McBroom said. “We have taken some of the most robust methods from the states and are trying to adapt them to Michigan. I hope this will leave a mechanism in place to protect the people from unrestrained, partisan bureaucracy and executive branch power.”

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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a former reporting intern with the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.