Proposal Aims to Restrict Lobbyist Influence on Michigan’s State Legislature

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by Scott McClallen

 

A progressive advocacy group filed ballot language to reform lobbying laws that would include a two-year “cooling off” period between lawmakers becoming paid lobbyists and prohibit “contingency pay” dependent on lobbying success.

The Coalition to Close Lansing Loopholes aims to make state government more accountable and transparent, Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott told The Center Square.

“Right now, lobbyists run the show in Lansing. They spend millions of dollars to influence and wine and dine elected officials with little oversight or transparency,” Scott said in an email. ‘What we’re proposing will make Michigan’s government more transparent, accountable and ensure elected officials are doing what’s best for the people, not the lobbyist who gave them the best concert tickets.”

Scott said the group expects broad support.

“This is not about one political party or one issue area,” Scott said. “We need to hold lawmakers and lobbyists, on both sides of the aisle and across the state to a high standard of trust and transparency.”

The proposal would require reporting from lawmakers and lobbyists, ban gifts from lobbyists and their clients to elected officials, and more.

Here’s the list of people who would be impacted.

Lobbyists reported spending $23.2 million over seven months of 2019, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Rich Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, told The Center Square that the proposal paints lawmakers and lobbyists with a broad brush and suggests they are all corrupt.

Studley said that Scott seemed to suggest that people like Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, would abandon their principles and vote against their district if someone bought them a cup of coffee or a meal.

“I know them well enough to know that’s not true,” Studley said.

Lobbyists work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Studley said, and represent people who can’t be in the Capitol every day, such as teachers, farmers and small business owners.

“Our members are busy working in their office, in their store, in their factory, working hard with their employees to meet customer demands and to create world-class products and services,” Studley said.

Most of the over 5,000 employers the chamber represents are small business owners, Studley said.

‘If a small business owner leaves the shop, or the store, or the office, that often means the business is closed, and they’re not making any money,” he said.

Studley said the proposal seemed partisan because Scott said they’re “introducing the ballot measure to send a message to the Republican majority in both chambers,” Mlive reported.

The proposal presents potential negative impacts on the right to free speech and the right of association, Studley said.

“Every American has a right to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” Studley said.

Proposed changes to the state Constitution shouldn’t be taken lightly because it could take decades to change a mistake or unintended consequence, Studley said.

The Coalition would have to submit just over 425,000 valid signatures by early July to reach the November 2020 ballot.

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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.
Photo “Michigan Capitol” by Brian Charles Watson. CC BY-SA 3.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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