Camilleri, Hammoud, Sneller Bills Would Increase Lansing Ethics

Legislation creates more disclosure, prevents forcing staff contributions
Thursday, March 30, 2017

LANSING — State Reps. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township), Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn) and Tim Sneller (D-Burton) introduced a package of bills today to increase ethics and transparency in state government. The three-bill package is modeled on legislation that U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint Township) introduced at the federal level.

Rep. Camilleri’s bill, House Bill 4477, amends the law that requires state agencies to publish information regarding contracts paid for with public funds to include information about how many jobs would be created or maintained with taxpayer dollars. There have been multiple instances of companies receiving tax incentives on the basis of promised job creation, only to fail to follow through on those claims.

“When companies do business with the state on the basis of creating or keeping jobs in Michigan, it’s only fair that we hold them to their word,” Rep. Camilleri said. “Michigan residents want to see their hard-earned tax dollars spent wisely, and if unscrupulous contractors are getting those dollars under false pretenses, we need to know about it.”

Rep. Hammoud’s bill, HB 4478, would require successful candidates for state representative and state senator to include in their postelection statement their tax return for the previous year. The absence of this requirement makes it impossible to determine whether incoming legislators have any potential conflicts of interest that could sway their vote on a particular issue.

“Michigan residents deserve to know the loyalties of those running for office, including any potential conflicts of interest,” Rep. Hammoud said. “I have consistently supported and advocated for government transparency. For anyone who wants an open and transparent government, requiring the disclosure of our financial information simply makes sense. I can’t imagine someone who has nothing to hide would be opposed to this bill.”

Rep. Sneller’s bill, HB 4479, would add employees of the Legislature to the law prohibiting state and local government employees from being required to make political contributions to a person or organization. During the investigation into former state Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, their staff alleged they were forced to engage in campaign activity during the state workday.

“Many people who work in politics donate to political causes, as is their right, but coercing or requiring it of someone is unconscionable,” Rep. Sneller said. “Many people already believe that legislators spend most of their time campaigning for office instead of serving their constituents. My bill is a step in the right direction toward restoring trust in government.”

Congressman Kildee’s legislation, which was introduced earlier this year, contains the same or similar provisions as those in the bills of Reps. Camilleri, Hammoud and Sneller. Michigan was recently ranked last in the nation in terms of state government ethics and transparency, and having seen no movement at the state level, Kildee decided to take action at the federal level.

“I commend Reps. Camilleri, Hammoud and Sneller for their leadership on these ethics bills to make Lansing more open and transparent,” said Congressman Kildee. “Cleaning up government and holding lawmakers to higher ethical standards should not be a political or partisan issue. Michigan lags behind other states when it comes to transparency in state government. These common-sense ethics reforms should be the floor — not the ceiling — when it comes to the State of Michigan adopting new ethics laws. Good governance in Lansing certainly does not end with just these reforms.”