Editor’s note: Let the sunshine in government

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Michigan is the darkest state in the nation, and not just because of its seemingly endless, gray winter.

Our state requires the least amount of transparency and accountability of its executive and legislative branches.

Michigan is alone in exempting by law the governor and Legislature from its Freedom of Information Act, which gives the public access to public information.

A bill promoted by the Michigan Coalition for Open Government would bring those political leaders out of the shadows and under FOIA, allowing the records of all public servants to be made available to the people who pay their salaries.

Passage would be a major step toward improving Michigan’s failing grade in the openness of its government. That’s why the House passed the measure on a unanimous vote and sent it on to the state Senate.

When it arrived in the upper chamber, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof plopped his fanny on it and won’t get up.

Meekhof said publicly that only journalists care about FOIA and access to critical public information.

Certainly, FOIA is an important tool for journalists in fulfilling their role as watchdogs of politicians like Meekhof, who apparently believe citizens deserve to know only what he feels like telling them.

But lots of private citizens use FOIA, too, to unlock information the state would rather keep secret.

The right to know what elected leaders are doing, and why, is basic, and should not be held hostage by autocratic politicians.

Meekhof should let the Government Operations Committee take up the bill.

What’s he hiding? Is he afraid of how voters might react if they were allowed to watch how he makes sausage?

One man shouldn’t deny the people access to information that belongs to them. The majority leader should bring this sunshine bill to the full Senate for a vote.

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