More Open Government Would Benefit Community Associations

Too often, we have seen clearly equitable and fair state legislation that would be beneficial to Michigan’s community associations get stalled and wither on the vine, whereas legislation which is counter to community associations’ interests, spearheaded by well-funded for-profit special interests, tends to sail through with little objection. We have reason to believe that this is due in no small part to legislators’ business conflicts of interest, and two new bills that were recently introduced would finally shine a light on those relationships, along with making other positive improvements in our state governance.

We thank Senator Steve Bieda (D-9th) for introducing SB 64 and Representative Dave LaGrand (D-75th) for introducing the corresponding HB 4345 in the House. In fact, Senator Bieda has been advocating for similar legislation since 2003.

Time to Catch Up

Michigan is the only state in the nation with a full-time legislature that is not subject to business disclosure requirements. And the larger picture of our state government transparency and accountability is downright depressing – in 2015, the Center for Public Integrity graded all the states on several metrics and ranked Michigan dead last. They looked at not only the executive and legislative branches, but also at the judicial branch. Right now, judges don’t have to disclose information or recuse themselves if they have a personal interest in the outcome of a case. Also of note is The Center for Michigan’s March 2017 report, Fractured Trust: Lost Faith in State Government and How to Restore ItThe results of a diverse survey of 5,000 Michigan residents showed extremely low levels of trust in Michigan’s campaign finance system, and the most popular solution to the problem was to require greater transparency and financial/donor reporting requirements.

Among the recent examples of conflict of interest issues in our state legislature are the questions that have been raised in connection with state legislation on medical marijuana, which conflicts are difficult to identify due to our lack of disclosure requirements. However, the Detroit Free Press recently published an excellent article on the subject.

What You Can Do

Given today’s political climate with an increasing number of people becoming politically active, now may be the time when Michigan can finally successfully pressure our legislators and demand reasonable measures be taken to ensure accountability and transparency. Historically, this type of legislation has not even made it out of committee, so it may be best at this time to contact the Chairpersons of the respective committees in the House and Senate, Representative Aaron Miller (R-59th) and Senator Dave Robertson (R-14th). Be sure to identify yourself as a constituent if applicable, and demand to know when they will take up this legislation with their committees. This will be an important first step if we are ever to get favorable legislation passed that protects consumer interests for owners in condominium and homeowner associations.