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Open records laws could soon apply to Legislature

Flickr User Joe Ross

The governor’s office and the Legislature could soon be covered by open records rules similar to those that must be followed by state agencies and local governments.

Republicans and Democrats agree these changes are long overdue. But the challenge has been doing it in a way that ensures constituents’ privacy is protected when they seek help with a problem.

Republican state Representative Jason Sheppard says there’s no question that people have a right to know what their elected officials are up to.

“But the thing that we frameworked was to make sure that sensitive material was kept sensitive.”

Sheppard says lawmakers face a challenge. They have to strike a balance between the public’s right to know what’s going on and the privacy of constituents seeking help.


“When you work in our realm with constituents and sensitive areas and sensitive issues, you want to make sure that they’re protected just as much as you want to make sure that the public can at least know what’s going on.” 

Democratic Representative Christine Greig says there are still provisions to protect the confidentiality of requests from constituents.        


“As legislators, we get a lot of communications from our constituents about personal issues, challenges, things like that. So, we want to exempt that and protect the personal privacy of our constituents.”


Lawmakers would also have to hang onto communications with their offices for at least two years.

The bills are expected to be approved by the House this week, and sent to the state Senate.

Rick Pluta is the Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He is heard daily on WCMU's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.