by Scott McClallen
On Wednesday, Michigan House Republicans kicked off the 101st legislative session by introducing a bill that seeks to prohibit lawmakers from voting on bills that could benefit themselves or their family members
“To say we’re living in challenging political times is an understatement. People just don’t trust their government or their politicians,” House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Clare, said in a Wednesday press conference.
“The legislation we’re using to kickoff this year is intended to send messages to people who say that integrity matters, that ethics matter. And that trust in your government matters.”
Wentworth said he planned to file a joint resolution that would require a two-thirds vote for legislation passed during lame duck session — the end of session when some are about to exit their seat— because many people feel outgoing lawmakers can’t be held accountable for their votes, including for controversial bills.
Wentworth added House Republicans plan to pitch more transparency and accountability focused bills over the next few weeks.
Pamela Hornberger, R-Chesterfield Township, sponsored House Bill 4001 that aims to prohibit lawmakers from voting on legislation that could personally benefit themselves or family members.
There are currently similar laws on the books, Hornberger said, but they haven’t been updated or strengthened for decades.
“Over the years, it’s become apparent through various studies that Michigan residents do not trust their government,” Hornberger said.
“That’s a huge problem. As a legislator, it’s my job to listen to the concerns of the people and implement changes to respond to their needs. This plan accomplishes that, and I’m hopeful it’s just a first step to help restore faith in our state government.”
While she didn’t speak to the specifics of the bill, Hornberger said legislators plan to use other state’s laws as a template.
“This method has proven effective elsewhere, so we know it will be effective here,” Hornberger said. “It’s a simple notion and a critical action. No elected official should be able to vote for any legislation that somehow benefits them or a relative.”
A 2015 study by The Center for Public Integrity ranked Michigan last for legislative accountability.
Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians, called the bills “a good first step.”
“Now more than ever, we must clean up Michigan’s government and restore the public’s trust in our elected officials,” Wang said in a statement.
“We support these reforms and hope the legislative leadership will also prioritize others, such as making the governor’s office and legislature subject to open records laws, and requiring financial disclosure by legislators. We look forward to working with any member of the legislature who is committed to making our government truly responsive and accountable to the voters.”
– – –
Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.