Feb 10, 2007
State Rep. Chris Ward has earned a deserved reputation for introducing grandstanding legislation that he knows will go no where but allows him to say he is address a problem during campaign season, but he out did himself with the planned introduction of a bill that creates a state-level office to enforce the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The story was in Friday’s edition of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, and it raises more questions than it answers. The first one is why didn’t he introduce the bill just a few months to four years ago when the Republic Party was the majority party in both Houses of the state Legislature and would have no trouble getting such a bill passed. For the past two years Ward was the Majority Floor Leader, and he was the sole person able to decide what legislation would go before the full House for consideration.
Obviously, the Republic Party is settling into its minority role quite nicely, and Ward can say he addressed a problem.
The second question is why are we talking and writing about something that has not even been introduced yet. It does not take much to get a bill introduced. You simply tell the nonpartisan Legislative Services Bureau what you want, and they promptly return it to you in bill and legal form. You take it to the nonpartisan clerk’s office who simply reads the title of the bill at the end of the session day when no Legislators need be present where it is assigned a bill number and it’s then referred to a committee.
Now, the hard part is getting the assigned committee to give the bill a hearing and get it discharged out to the full House. That would have been no trouble when Ward was in the majority party, but it apparently was not a big enough problem for him to address then.
Ward claims to be a conservative who supports small government, yet he wants to create another layer of government with an ombudsman that apparently would mediate disputes between government units and people making requests under the FOIA.
This is the same person who irresponsibly voted last summer to end the Single Business Tax (SBT) early without a replacement in sight. This the same man who supports the Senate Republics proposed SBT replacement that cuts $300 million out of the tax in the face of a $3 billon state budget deficit. This the same man who wants to make unspecified cuts in government spending, but he still wants to add more government.
He claims the Michigan Press Association, a trade organization that represents some 300 Michigan newspapers, supports the idea, but if you look at their legislative priorities all it says about FOIA is to examine the changes that have taken place to the act since it was enacted and roll back some of the exceptions.
Now, I don’t think this is a bad idea, but when we are facing huge budget deficits our legislators should be addressing and all the Republic Party wants to do is cut, why is Ward proposing more government?
Again, I think FOIA enforcement should be increased because I strongly support open and transparent government, but why can't an existing agency take up the enforcement?