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Moss: State Dems favor expansion of FOIA

Re: Greg McNeilly’s Nov. 18 op-ed in The Detroit News, “Lawmakers need workplace oversight”: I thank McNeilly for his support.

When I was elected to serve the people of my district and Michigan in the House of Representatives, I knew I was charged with introducing bills that would make a change for the better for the people of our state.

What McNeilly, chairman of the Michigan Freedom Fund, refers to in his op-ed is the expansion of the Freedom of Information Act to cover the Legislature and governor’s office, which are currently exempt. Recent events show the need for FOIA reform are even more apparent. Just last week, the Attorney General’s office finally complied with a FOIA request after stalling for months and dumped hundreds of pages of emails right before a holiday. Yet Republican leaders refuse to bring the bill up in committee.

There are problems facing our state government that could use a little sunshine. For example, smoke and mirrors abound in the spending of $134 million for new Senate offices.

We must also remember when FOIA worked in the best interest of the people:

■Aramark’s disgraceful practices in our state prisons were brought to light through FOIA.

■A scandal was unearthed at the Michigan State Housing Development Authority in which the director, Scott Woosley, spent hundreds of thousands of public dollars on lavish hotels, first-class flights around the world, gourmet meals, etc. Because this was brought into the public light, Woosley rightly resigned.

Local governments are already subject to FOIA, as I know from my time as a Southfield city councilman. If it’s good enough for municipalities, why not the state?

House Democrats haven’t stopped with FOIA, though. Back in March, during Sunshine Week, we introduced a package of bills to bring more transparency to state government, including pulling back the curtains on state-awarded contracts. Just this month, we announced legislation to reform campaign finances, to shed some light on the dark money floating around from big donors and organizations. We have been calling for transparency and oversight for a long time now, and it’s time Republicans listen.

In his op-ed McNeilly wrote: “In Michigan, lawmakers are not subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act. That means that the men and women you elect (and pay) to represent you in Lansing can do and say whatever they want on your time knowing full well you’ll never have access to their records.

“That’s not right, and it should change.”

He’s right, that should change, and House Democrats and I look forward to his editorial helping bring the Republicans in Lansing on board with FOIA expansion legislation. I hope he encourages his Republican friends to give the bill a hearing in committee.

State Rep. Jeremy Moss, Southfield