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Governor Vetoes Bill to Prohibit FOIA Suspension by Executive Order

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday (6/3) vetoed a bill that would prohibit the suspension of Freedom of Information Act requests through an executive order in many cases, according to a report in Gongwer.

The bill originated in the House, where it was passed 98-11 on April 22. The Senate later gave its approval to legislation in a 21-15 vote on May 27.

The bill was drafted in response to Executive Order 2020-38 from Governor Gretchen Whitmer in April 2020 that gave permission to government bodies to cite the pandemic as a reason for the delay of some FOIA requests, according to earlier reports.

That executive order drew legal challenges from two residents and was rescinded in June 2020.

In her veto letter, Whitmer defended the 2020 order, writing that it was designed to help protect the employees responding to FOIA requests during the first coronavirus surge, “an exceptionally frightening and uncertain moment in Michigan’s history,” according to a report in Gongwer.

She added that the order was limited in scope and did not change the requirement that public bodies respond to FOIA requests in a timely manner.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland), said in a statement that Whitmer turned her back on a campaign pledge of transparency.

“Government should not be able to decide when it wants to be transparent,” he said. “By vetoing this bill, the governor has signaled to the people of Michigan that she is more concerned with her power than with being transparent. House Bill 4448 passed both the House and the Senate with bipartisan support, showing that transparency should not be a partisan issue.”

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