COLUMN Its time for Michigan to let the sun shine in

first_img12Mar COLUMN: It’s time for Michigan to let the sun shine in This week, transparency advocates all across the country highlight the importance of open government by commemorating Sunshine Week.We all share the belief that government functions best when the sun shines in. In other words, a government must be open and accessible to the public in order to effectively serve its citizens.It’s embarrassing to note Michigan is one of just two states that still exempts the governor’s office and state legislature from public disclosure laws. Journalists and residents of our state can obtain public records from members of their local school board, township board, city council, county board of commissioners, and even state departments – but not the governor, lieutenant governor, state representatives, or state senators.Because I respect the public’s right to know, the first piece of legislation I introduced after taking the oath of office in January was part of a bipartisan plan to remove these exemptions and improve transparency in state government.I was subject to the Freedom of Information Act when I served as a member of the Independence Township Board of Trustees, and I have no reservations about disclosing similar records as a state representative. People trust us with their hard-earned tax dollars, and they’re entitled to information about how the state is spending their money.While the Legislative Open Records Act package mimics FOIA in many ways, there are exemptions for constituent inquiries to ensure that when you contact your state legislator, your information is protected and kept private.My transparency plan is a top priority in the House, and I’m pleased to report it should soon come up for a vote.The second piece of legislation I introduced will help shed light on car insurance fraud in Michigan by establishing an authority to investigate unfair insurance claims and suspicious settlement practices.Michigan drivers pay among the highest car insurance rates in the nation. Fraud is one of many factors responsible for driving up costs. Exposing it will help provide relief to families, seniors, and workers all across the state.Under my plan, the fraud authority would develop an annual report for the Legislature detailing unfair claim practices of Michigan insurance companies. It would also assess the impact of fraud and unfair claims, summarize prevention programs, and outline allocations. Most importantly, all of this information would be made available to the public through the Freedom of Information Act.Finally, I was proud to sponsor a resolution in the Michigan House declaring this week as Sunshine Week in Michigan. While commemorative in nature, it’s critical to take time to reflect on the important role transparency plays in our system of government.As the Dalai Lama once said, “A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”We must move forward with plans to improve transparency to help restore the public’s trust in their government.(473 Words)State Rep. Andrea Schroder is serving her first term in the Michigan House representing the 43rd District, which encompasses Lake Angelus, Clarkston, Independence Township and part of Waterford Township. Categories: Schroeder Newslast_img read more