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  • James Townsend

House panel advances plan to require transparency from elected officials

A bipartisan plan sponsored in-part by state Reps. Julie Calley and David LaGrand to increase the transparency and accountability of elected state officials was approved today by the House Elections and Ethics Committee.

Calley, who chairs the committee, said the plan would reveal potential conflicts of interest by requiring candidates for and officeholders of the legislative, executive and judicial branches to fill out a financial disclosure form.

“I want to boost people’s confidence by increasing transparency. The current lack of disclosure fosters mistrust in government,” said Calley, R-Portland. “This is a step we must take in order to assure the residents of Michigan that we’re focused on their best interests and not our own.”

Michigan is one of just two states without a law requiring elected officials or candidates to disclose their personal finances.

Under the proposal, elected officials and candidates for state-level offices would be required to divulge sources of income; stocks, investments and real estate assets owned; business associations above certain thresholds; and any relatives registered as lobbyists. The same information would be required for the filer’s spouse and any dependent children.

“Elected officials have a responsibility to rebuild public trust in government and that starts by being transparent about potential personal financial conflicts of interest,” said LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids. “Right now, people are completely in the dark about whether a serious conflict of interest exists because of Michigan’s weak disclosure requirements. This common-sense legislation will allow Michiganders to hold elected officials accountable while helping restore their faith that votes are cast and policies are developed in the best interest of the people, and not for personal financial gain.”

If enacted, the disclosure rules would apply to candidates and legislators in the state House and Senate, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, court of appeals judges, state board of education members and elected state university board members.

House Bills 4642-49 now move to the House Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

Other sponsors of the legislative package include Reps. Mark Huizenga (R-Walker), Graham Filler (R-DeWitt), William Sowerby (D-Clinton Township), Tenisha Yancey (D-Harper Woods), Steve Marino (R-Harrison Township) and Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor).

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