Sneller Introduces Bill to Increase Transparency, Accountability

Would prohibit legislators from voting on bills that directly benefit them, family
Thursday, June 20, 2019

LANSING — State Rep. Tim Sneller (D-Burton) introduced House Bill 4785 today to increase transparency and accountability in the legislative process by requiring Michigan legislators to recuse themselves from voting on legislation with which they have a substantial conflict of interest. Members of the state’s Legislature are not currently required to recuse themselves or report conflicts of interest, with both chambers instead relying on voluntary disclosure.

“Elected officials are also members of the communities we serve, so it is only natural that there will be situations where we’re asked to vote on legislation that directly impacts us or our interests,” Sneller said. “But when that impact is financial or beneficial in any way, the current system operates on the assumption of total honesty, and unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. The Legislature belongs to the people, so adding another critical accountability mechanism like this helps provide total transparency and better safeguards the public trust.”

The bill defines “substantial conflict of interest” as a situation where a legislator, their spouse, child or any individual residing in the same household would incur direct monetary gain or loss as a result of the enactment or defeat of a bill.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who in her first year in office has made increasing government transparency a top priority, has expressed her support for the bill.

“Rep. Sneller’s legislation takes steps to ensure that the people of Michigan have the transparent and accountable government they deserve,” said Benson. “Michigan residents have a right to know what conflicts of interest their public leaders may have. This bill is part of a comprehensive transparency package designed to help restore the public’s trust in state government.”

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Michigan currently ranks dead last in the nation in transparency and ethics. Sneller and Benson are among those who aim to reverse that trend.

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