Skubick: Michigan lawmakers clash over transparency proposal

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – A bipartisan plan released last week to change the financial disclosure law for legislators is drawing fire from a key legislator who dismisses the proposal as “lies, whitewash and not a compromise.”

Under current state law, if you are a legislator who owns a business such as a bar, and there’s a bill to lower the liquor tax, you are supposed to announce that you will not vote on this because it’s a clear conflict of interest.

The problem is there is no penalty if you do vote, and more importantly, lawmakers are on the honor system to make the disclosure since there is no record anywhere that you have this business in the first place.

Democratic Rep. David LaGrand and a bipartisan group introduced an 8-bill package to force lawmakers to make a public financial disclosure so voters can judge if there is a conflict.

But, out of the blue last week, the House GOP speaker Wentworth and the House Democratic leader Lesinski introduced a new disclosure law that:

“Is a parallel proposal now to have fraudulent or hypocritical finance disclosure, because it would be disclosed to a secret committee which would be exempt from the open meetings act,” said LeGrand.

This new proposal would create a committee of two Republicans and two Democrats who would collect financial data from lawmakers, and then the four would pass judgment on whether there was a conflict, and ten days after that they would report action to the public.

But Rep. LaGrand argues they could do something else: blackmail their colleagues by saying to a colleague with a conflict of interest… “It would be a shame if we opened an investigation into you. How about you support what I want to do,” said LaGrand.

The grassroots citizens group Voters Not Politicians led by Nancy Wang has signed off on this new proposal, but LaGrand disagrees.

“Claiming you’ve made progress, that’s whitewashing, that is taking a step backward. No matter what kind of spin you put on it, It’s not disclosure to the public so it’s a lie.”

This sets up what could be an interesting fight between Democrats who don’t like this bill, and their leader who does not believe its a lie.

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