House Dems Discharge Ethics Reform Bills

Package will shine light on state government, election fundraising
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Democratic Leader Rick Hammel.

LANSING - State Representative Roy Schmidt (Grand Rapids), with support from the entire House Democratic Caucus, moved to discharge the sixteen bill and one constitutional amendment “Reform Government Now” package introduced in early February in the House today. The motion was allowed in the wake of Michigan receiving an “F” on State Integrity Investigation’s corruption report card.

“It was a positive step to see these bills begin to move through the legislative process after many members supported a number of the bills in the package in the last session,” said House Democratic Leader Richard E. Hammel (Mt. Morris Township). “Since their introduction, we were given no indication that the Republican majority was willing to move these bills in committee. Unfortunately, we had to use the discharge motion today to move this package of legislation through the process, but I’m thankful it was supported and urge Republicans to allow for a quick vote on these bills and get them to the Senate.”

The bills, many of which passed in the previous session with Republican support, resolve a number of the problems cited in the failing grade from State Integrity Investigation including having legislators disclose personal finances, beefing up campaign finance disclosure requirements, establishing an ethics act for the executive branch, and enacting strong conflict of interest laws. In his State of the State Address, Governor Rick Snyder said the people deserve a more open and accountable government. The “Reform Government Now” package was re-introduced following his remarks calling on the Legislature to enact ethics reform.

“It is our job to be responsible and responsive to the people who elected us,” said House Floor Leader Kate Segal (Battle Creek). “It is in all of our best interests to shine more light on the political process and to know exactly who is contributing to candidates. The people of Michigan deserve to know if corporate special interests are funding their elections, so they can make intelligent decisions at the voting booth. Ranking 43rd in the nation is simply unacceptable. It is time for transparency, accountability and ‘relentless positive action’ to be more than just slogans; this is a real opportunity to follow through and reform campaigns and government in a seriously positive way.”

Among other things, the sixteen bills and one constitutional amendment in the House Democratic “Reform Government Now” package would:

  • Create a two-year “cooling off” period for elected officials and a one year period for department directors who attempt to move directly into lobbying to close the revolving door between public and private work.
  • Require personal financial disclosure from appointed and elected officials. Michigan is one of only three states with no financial disclosure requirements.
  • Strengthen conflict of interest provisions for legislators, prohibit state elected officials from applying for or accepting state grants, and make it illegal for individuals to solicit or accept campaign contributions while in a state facility.
  • Toughen campaign finance disclosure and corporate accountability after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted limits on corporate spending in campaigns and prevent state contractors, companies that accept federal bail-out money, and foreign-controlled corporations from spending money in Michigan elections.
  • Increase transparency by forcing corporations making expenditures in campaigns or for lobbying purposes to comply with the law and publically disclose funders.
  • Require “robo-calls” to clearly state the name and address of the organization paying for them.