News Story

After Veto, Gov. Snyder's Commitment To Transparency Questioned

Governor vetoed bill passed unanimously by the Legislature

One of the campaign promises Gov. Rick Snyder ran on as a candidate in 2010 was that he'd make state government more transparent and accountable to the citizens of Michigan.

"Michigan's citizens are tired of the divisive political culture in Lansing," Snyder said on the campaign trail. "Midnight deals, closed-doors meetings, lobbyists and special interest influence have stood in the way of long-term solutions.

"As governor, I will ensure that government is open, fair and accountable to the citizens by making Michigan a national leader in transparency and ethics."

Considering Gov. Snyder's commitment to transparency, his veto of House Bill 4116 on June 28 puzzled many. The legislation, which passed unanimously by the House and the Senate, appears to do little more than assure that the attorney general review memorandums of agreement the governor can make with other nations. The bill also ensures access to information for the legislature and the public.

Rep. Paul Opsommer, R-Dewitt, introduced the bill after the experience he had trying to get information on Michigan's agreement with England on something called the "Partnership on Global Climate Change Action." That agreement was reached under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2008. Rep. Opsommer could not get any information about the agreement even though he is an elected lawmaker.

Inside Michigan Politics Editor Bill Ballenger said he couldn't recall a situation in recent memory where a Michigan governor vetoed legislation that passed without a single "no" vote.

"With past gubernatorial vetoes there has at least been some group or faction of legislators who opposed the bill," Ballenger said. "One would assume, if the bill passed without opposition, that — at least initially — there would be enough votes in the House and Senate to override the veto. However, veto overrides are also rare."

An override of the Snyder's veto of the bill would require super-majority two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate. There has been talk in the legislature about possibly overriding the veto.

Rep. Richard LeBlanc, D-Westland, said there have been veto override discussions.

"Both caucuses in the House, Democrats and Republicans believe in transparency," Rep. LeBlanc said. "The Legislature has a legitimate interest in agreements entered into by the the state of Michigan. It should be made aware of them and advised about them.

"A lot of us in the Legislature were naturally curious when the governor vetoed a bill that did not receive a single 'no' vote," Rep. LeBlanc said. "I would hope the governor will take the opportunity to tell us if, by altering a paragraph or changing a word or two, the bill could become a measure he would support."

At the time, Gov. Snyder's veto of House Bill 4116 was obscured by the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Obamacare.

"This was really sort of weird," Ballenger said regarding Gov. Snyder's veto. "One problem is that we just haven't seen any good explanation for why he vetoed the bill."

The brief explanation of the veto given by the governor's office was as follows: "While the governor supported the bill's aims of openness and transparency in government, it violates the separation of powers by directing members of the executive branch on how to gather legal analysis."

The governor's office did not respond to requests to find out if Gov. Snyder objects to being required to keep the Legislature and attorney general informed, or objects to part of the bill that requires the attorney general to do a legal analysis.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.