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Sen. Runestad highlights efforts to increase government transparency during Sunshine Week

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Jim Runestad on Wednesday said he is drafting legislation to create an independent agency and ombudsman within the Legislative council to review Freedom of Information Act appeals at no cost to state residents.

“It is fitting to announce the creation of this legislation during Sunshine Week, which is observed March 13 through 19 this year and continues to shine light on the importance of open government,” said Runestad, R-White Lake.

“Too often, government entities attempt to stall FOIA requests or report the bare minimum. It is my hope to create a position within the Legislative council that can assist residents — at no cost — in making a FOIA request, helping them tailor their request as needed for efficiency and to improve response times, offering a review if a resident feels they are being obstructed in getting information, assessing the appropriateness of processing costs, and helping with other important components of this vital tool for government transparency.”

Runestad said his envisioned agency would have subpoena power and the ability to request records from state and local government offices to facilitate the processing of FOIA requests on behalf of residents.

The senator also continues to push forward on recent sunshine legislation he has introduced, including a bill package to expand FOIA and Open Meetings Act laws to include the taxpayer-funded Detroit Institute of Arts and Detroit Zoo and Senate Bill 336 to require courts that create videos of case recordings to make them available to the public.

“Michigan continues to be rated among the least transparent states in the entire country,” Runestad said. “Government must be open and accessible to Michiganders who provide their hard-earned tax dollars for its operation. I will continue to advocate for transparency and accountability wherever I see a place in which we could do better.”

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