Senate leader out of touch with public

Members of the Michigan House of Representatives served it up to their counterparts in the state Senate earlier this month. It should have been a slam dunk, or a home run, or whatever other sports analogy you want to use.

Instead, Senate leaders chose to call off the celebratory parade that was to be held in their honor.

We’re talking about a bill package that would have removed blanket exemptions afforded to state legislators and the governor’s office under Michigan’s more than 40-year-old Freedom of Information Act. Frankly, it’s a policy that never should have been adopted with such protections for the state’s top elected officials. But those corrections were ready to be made.

The plan was to move the bills through both chambers of the Legislature and onto the governor’s desk during “Sunshine Week,” which is a national celebration of the public’s right to access information from its government that takes place in mid-March.

The House did its job, but Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, who controls what bills are voted on in his chamber, never moved the open records package forward.

Asked about the proposal at a Michigan Press Association event earlier this year, Meekhof said journalists “are the only people who care about this.”

We disagree and believe there is clear evidence to the contrary.

Robin Luce Herrmann, a media law expert who is general counsel to the Michigan Press Association, recently came to Petoskey and spoke to a packed room at North Central Michigan College’s luncheon lecture series. Herrmann’s discussion was focused on the state’s open meetings and public records laws, which are central to the democratic process.

With local officials and community leaders filling the seats, it was clear to all in attendance that residents of northwest Michigan are engaged and want transparency from their elected leaders.

Meekhof’s brazen statement during the press association’s event earlier this year shows the state senator is out of touch with the people he serves. And isn’t that just the problem?

Legislators exist in a Lansing bubble that, frankly, the public does not care about. People want honesty, they want access and they want openness from their representatives. An expansion of the state’s Freedom of Information Act to include legislative offices and the governor moves us in that direction.

We urge you to contact Meekhof and let him know where you stand. He can be reached by email: senameekhof@senate.michigan.gov; phone: (517) 373-6920 or standard mail: P.O. Box 30036, Lansing, MI 48909-7356.

— Petoskey News-Review

COMMENTS