We applaud State Rep. Gary Howell for keeping his word and moving to bring transparency to state government.

Howell recently voted to approve a bipartisan package of bills to make state government more accountable to the people it serves. He co-sponsored both bills.

Michigan is one of just two states that exempts its governor and the Legislature from open records laws. The bipartisan solution approved this week would end these exemptions and increase transparency in state government. Though there are numerous exemptions and some limitations with regard to review of request denials, the legislation is definitely a step in the right direction. The bills are again in the hands of the Senate for approval.

In recent history, and for some unknown and inexplicable reason, the Senate has been opposed to adopting transparency legislation, which has regularly been approved by the House for the past several years.

In an interview with Detroit Free Press writer Kathleen Gray, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) indicated that the Senate will not ignore the bills, as they’ve done in the past. However, Shirkey acknowledged that whatever action the Senate takes, “it won’t be exactly like what the House is sending over.” Shirkey said he has concerns regarding “the free flow of ideas between legislators as they contemplate the language of bills and put personal communications at risk.”

It is unfortunate that our elected officials in the Senate continue to drag their feet when it comes to bringing transparency to the people they serve; to those who elected them to office. We hope that this will change. Taxpayers deserve to know what’s going on in the state government that they fund. It really is as simple as that.