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Despite talk of transparency, in 2023 Lansing is opaque as ever

Word and deed are in conflict in the state capital

Michigan Democrats declared last November that they would provide transparency in state government. Elected Democrats stood shoulder-to-shoulder on Mackinac Island in June and declared new transparency laws were coming to Lansing. “Our government must be transparent and accountable to the people,” states the Michigan Democratic Party on its website.

But no laws have been enacted to put sunshine on the governor and Legislature since the legislative term began nine months ago. And two politicians this week showed why Michigan government lacks accountability to residents, no matter which party is in power.

Rep. Angela Witwer, D-Delta Township, faces questions about whether she fully severed ties to the lobbying firm she founded. One of its clients is the Michigan Department of Education, as reported by Craig Mauger at The Detroit News. Witwer is also the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, which approves the department’s funding.

Witwer did not respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet, D-Bay City, introduced Senate Bill 466, which seems only to benefit a single cigar bar in her district, by allowing it an exemption to the state’s ban on smoking in businesses. It is unclear how it will benefit Michiganders at large.

The language of the bill does not provide the name of the cigar business that would gain a reprieve.

“The cigar bar is located in a city with a population of more than 32,000 and less than 34,000 that is located in a county with a population of more than 100,000 and less than 105,000,” the bill states. Bay City is the only location that fits the parameters of this bill, according to the most recent federal census records.

Tim Socier, owner of Timothy’s Fine Cigars in Bay City, however, believes the bill was introduced to allow Stables Martini Bar, a now-shuttered business, to redeem its cigar exemption, which it lost after reportedly failing to file annual paperwork for up to three years. Stables Martini Bar was part of the Lumber Barons and Stables restaurant and bar.

Lumber Barons closed and has since been purchased by Golden Glow Ballroom, according to the Huron Daily Tribune. Socier says McDonald Rivet’s attempt to give out an exemption is not fair to owners who follow the law.

McDonald Rivet did not respond to a CapCon request for comment.

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.