LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Runestad testified Thursday before the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety on his bill to guarantee the public’s access to government decision makers.
Senate Bill 104 would restore the discretion of courts to hold government boards and panels accountable by awarding attorney fees and court costs.
“A Michigan Supreme Court ruling five years ago highlighted the need to reform the law,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “There is no reason that citizens should be forced to pay out of pocket to enforce their rights.”
SB 104 returns to the previous standard, in which a plaintiff stands a much better chance of collecting costs and fees when a court issues a declaratory judgment in their favor.
Runestad said this will serve as an incentive for public bodies to ensure they are being transparent and open in their deliberations.
“The current standard has had a chilling effect on the public’s ability to pry back the curtains and cast sunshine on the decision-making process by our government officials,” Runestad said. “Senate Bill 104 will increase government transparency by leveling the playing field so that citizens successfully challenging violations of the Open Meetings Act stand a better chance of being awarded attorney fees.”
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