Senator on wrong side of history in opposing FOIA

State Sen. Arlan Meekhof has well-publicized problems with strengthening the Freedom of Information Act, opposing recent legislative moves that would have made the state House, Senate and Governor’s Office subject to the law.

Now, members of the West Olive Republican’s own party have problems with his problems, announcing Tuesday an effort to get new transparency legislation passed, despite Meekhof’s well-known positions.

“I have a great deal of respect for the majority leader and his opinions,” state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, told downstate media outlets. “We simply wanted to make our opinions very clear, and we’ll see if we have any support from the (GOP) caucus.”

Jones and other prominent Senate Republicans have introduced an 11-bill package opening the Senate, House and Governor’s Office to FOIA requests. Included in the bills, among many other provisions, would be the establishment of a new Legislative Open Records Act, overseeing requests directed at the Senate, and House, necessary, analysts said, because of court rulings and constitutional provisions.

Meekhof, for his part, has argued greater transparency is unneeded, that the Senate is already posting a great deal of information online.

In an MLive commentary over the weekend, he observed: “I do not think lobbyists should be able to request my emails so they can advantage their clients. I do not think political opponents should be able to review my calendar for their own gain. I do not think my staff people deserve to have their personnel records scrutinized by the public simply because they work to serve the public.”

While we understand the majority leader’s concerns, we strongly disagree with them. As long as Sen. Meekhof takes taxpayer money in his paycheck, he forfeits the veil of confidentiality he apparently craves. Public employees like Meekhof, and many others we could easily cite, work for the public, not the other way around.

And the observance of Sunshine Week is an entirely appropriate time to underscore that obvious fact.

Mining Journal (Marquette)