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New legislation would require elected officials to disclose their finances

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A new bipartisan package of bills in the state house would increase transparency around the finances of lawmakers and other elected officials.

The bill package would require financial disclosures for senators, house representatives, members of the state board of education and governing bodies of universities, among others.

Those officials would have to disclose earned income exceeding $5,000 and securities above $10,000 from themselves and their family members.

Craig Mauger is with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. He said Michigan and Idaho are the only two states that don’t require these kinds of disclosures.

“It is important to try to give the people of the state faith that their government is trying to act in a trustworthy fashion and not just trying to enrich themselves or enrich people who are well connected to them.”

Mauger said it is noteworthy that the bills have such strong bipartisan support.

In the past, he said, similar legislation would generally be introduced by the party out of power and would ultimately fail.

The current legislation is co-sponsored by a majority of the state house, with strong support from both Democrats and Republicans.

Democratic State Representative David LaGrand introduced part of the bill package. He said he owns eight corporations including a law firm and a distillery.

“If I can comply with financial disclosure with fairly complicated finances it’s a lot easier for a lot of my other colleagues.”

LaGrand said there is no question that financial interests can have an impact on how lawmakers vote and should be made public.

“I mean I have significant interests that might affect my votes. In each of the last two sessions I have recused myself from votes massively more than my colleagues. I can’t be the only person with potential conflicts of interest.”

Elected officials would also have to disclose whether their spouse was a lobbyist, whether they were sitting on the board of a corporation, and personal financial holdings, among other things.