Sen. Jeremy Moss and Rep. Ryan Berman are working together to allow for transparency in the state government.
By Sen. Jeremy Moss and Rep. Ryan Berman
Four years ago, two state legislators were rumored to be misusing state resources while covering up the affair they were having with each other.
This couldn’t be immediately proven, however, because reporters couldn’t access documents in their state offices that would reveal the details behind the cover-up.
That’s because Michigan is one of only two states in the nation that does not subject the governor or state legislators to the existing open records law called the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
At the time, in the fall of 2015, then-Rep. Jeremy Moss was a freshman House Democrat determined to change this legal blind spot and drafted a series of bills to expand access to government records.
While he was working on these bills, a story more substantial than a minor political sex scandal broke that thrust this work in Michigan into the national spotlight: the Flint water crisis.
These scandals — big and small — and the lack of information of how they were carried out are part of the reason Michigan ranks dead last among all 50 states in government ethics, according to a study by the Center for Public Integrity. Their report measured 13 functions of government and Michigan failed 10 of them, including public access to information, legislative accountability and executive accountability.
With the increasing scrutiny on the lack of government oversight that term, the transparency legislation moved successfully through the House of Representatives, but the bills have never been taken up in the Michigan Senate.
This year, however, things are different.
Moss is now serving in the Senate, where he is ready to usher this legislation through the upper legislative chamber after it recently passed the House, with the help of new House bill sponsor Rep. Ryan Berman. Moss and Berman also gained a critical partner in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has sought to increase transparency in state government even in these early days of her administration.
In just four years, these efforts went from earning only a few champions in 2015 to being lauded by the governor in her State of the State address in 2019.
The time to let the sun shine on Michigan government is imminent, and it is on us to own that opportunity. This bipartisan coalition is committed to seeing this issue through — once and for all.
Sen. Jeremy Moss (D–Southfield), the lead author of the Legislative Open Records Act for the last four years, represents citizens of the 11th District in Oakland County that includes Farmington, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Madison Heights, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge City, Royal Oak Township and Southfield.
Rep. Ryan Berman (R–Commerce Township), who sponsored the House Bill 4011 of 2019 in the Legislative Open Records Act, represents citizens of the 39th District in Oakland County that includes the city of Wixom, Commerce Township, a portion of West Bloomfield Township and the village of Wolverine Lake.