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Michigan Senate passes financial disclosure bills, but critics blast timing

Facing a Dec. 31 deadline, lawmakers submitted the first bill on Oct. 24

By a 36-2 margin, the Michigan Senate on Wednesday passed a financial disclosure bill for officeholders.

But the two votes against the bill were a form of protest from lawmakers who believed the process started too late and went too fast.

Senate Bill 613 deals with officeholders: lawmakers, the governor and lieutenant governor, the secretary of state and the attorney general. Senate Bill 614 is about candidates for those offices. The bills are tie-barred together, meaning that both must pass for either to be enacted into law. While the officeholder bill has advanced to the House, the bill for candidates awaits a vote.

Sens. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, and Jonathan Lindsey, R-Allen, expressed their frustration in a speech Lindsey gave on the Senate floor, which Runestad concurred with.

“I think what we’re doing today is a disservice to the people of Michigan,” Lindsey said in remarks recorded in Senate Journal 96 of 2023.

“We’re now in November,” Lindsey said. “This body spent the vast majority of this year pursuing other initiatives, legislation priorities, and very little conversation has gone on about doing one of the only things that the people of Michigan mandated that we do. Instead, we took this legislation up, and in a one-week period, rammed it through, made a few minor adjustments, and now we’re going to move into the final phase of the anatomy of this lie, which is, we’re going to pass it and we’re going to tell the people of Michigan that we made a real difference.”

“But why are we in this situation in the first place, what is the real state of play when you talk about the relationship between politicians and the people we serve?” Lindsey said. “By and large, that relationship is defined as one where they don’t trust us.”

Lindsey urged colleagues to avoid a vote on the bills and spend the time between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 — the constitutional deadline for financial disclosure, due to Proposal 1 of 2023 — asking the public what it wants to be disclosed.

“Why doesn’t the Senate of Michigan, why doesn’t the entire Legislature, commit to taking the next two months, and going and engaging with our constituents and asking them, what is it we should do regarding financial transparency, to start the process of regaining the trust of the people of Michigan?” Lindsey asked.

Lindsey and Runestad’s protest went unheeded. The rest of their colleagues voted yes.

Senate bills 613 and 614 were introduced on Oct. 24, just two months ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline. When the bills were introduced, critics said the $1,000 penalty for false filings and $500 penalty for non-filers was too low. In the version the Senate passed, the fines were doubled to $2,000 for false filings and a maximum of $1,000 for non-filers.

Spousal disclosure was also strengthened. In the original bill, spouses only had to list their occupation. Now they must list their address and name their employer or employers.

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.