LANSING, MI — In an effort to increase government transparency and accountability, state Sen. Jim Runestad on Wednesday proposed a series of amendments to legislation designed to implement financial disclosure requirements approved by voters with Proposal 1 of 2022.
“These financial disclosure bills are hardly even a small first step in bringing about the real transparency reforms that are needed to rebuild public trust in state government,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “We are lighting a candle when floodlights are needed. My amendments would have better illuminated the darkest corners of the state’s lobbying loopholes — potential areas for corruption that are so big someone could drive Batman’s Batmobile through them.”
Runestad’s first amendment would have included consultants to the legislation’s definition of a lobbyist. According to a recent report by The Detroit News, “The corruption of Rick Johnson… might have been detected earlier had he been required to disclose that marijuana lobbyists at the Philip Alan Brown Consulting paid him $350,000 that prosecutors say came directly from Green Peak Industries, a marijuana grower and retailer that sold its products at Skymint stores until its recent financial implosion.”
A second amendment would have required a legislator or public official who sponsors or requests a “legislatively directed spending item” to disclose whether they or an immediate family member would have a direct or indirect financial interest in the appropriations request.
A third amendment would have stipulated that unless given by an immediate family member, any gift will have to be disclosed by reporting the nature of the gift, the name and address of the gift giver, the fair market value of the gift, and the date the gift was received and that any travel or lodging expenditures exceeding $500 would also be required for disclosure.
“The people of Michigan deserve to know if members of the Legislature and/or high-level executive branch officials are receiving free perks such as gifts, travel and lodging,” Runestad said. “Elected officials taking trips to places like Turks and Caicos haven’t been disclosed in the past because they aren’t required to be under current law.”
In November 2022, Michigan voters approved Proposal 1, a constitutional amendment that included language to require statewide officeholders and members of the Legislature to file an annual financial disclosure report with the state.
Runestad’s amendments were each defeated, and he was one of only two senators to vote no on the final package of bills. Senate Bills 613-616 are now in the House of Representatives for consideration.