Advance Notice: Briefs

FOIA and lobbying reform ballot initiatives call off 2022 efforts

By: - March 10, 2022 12:01 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

In the aftermath of a Michigan Supreme Court decision, an effort to expand Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act and beef up lobbying laws will not attempt to make it onto the November ballot.

On Wednesday, the group Close Lansing Loopholes announced that it was calling off its efforts after reviewing the timeline left to collect the required signatures. That timeline was affected after the Jan. 24 ruling from the state’s high court striking down parts of a 2018 Republican-led law that made it more difficult to collect signatures for voter-led ballot initiatives.

While that was viewed as a favorable decision by Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, the lead organization behind Close Lansing Loopholes, he said the timing of the decision was a key factor.

“Given the late timing in our court case win, we don’t feel we have the capacity to get the required signatures in time for the 2022 ballot,” said Scott. “That, coupled with an incredibly crowded ballot environment, led us to the decision to wait to pursue these initiatives. We’re disappointed we won’t be out collecting signatures this year, but still fully plan on talking to folks across the state about these important issues and looking to the 2024 ballot.”

The group scrapped its 2020 effort due to difficulty in collecting signatures during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Close Lansing Loopholes sought to extend Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act to cover the Legislature and governor’s office. It also hoped to toughen lobbying rules by requiring a mandatory two-year cooling off period before a lawmaker leaving office can take a job as a lobbyist, banning all gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers and mandate a “lobby log” to allow residents to see who had been lobbying their elected.

Despite the decision to hold off for now, Scott says the need for the changes remains.

“Given what we’ve seen in state government over the last few years, from [former House Speaker] Lee Chatfield to the Flint Water Crisis, it should be clear to everyone that we need more transparency and accountability in Lansing and though it won’t happen this year, we still plan to deliver that for the people of Michigan.”

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.