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Lawmakers should publicly disclose conflicts

Michigan and only two other states — Idaho and New Jersey — have no statutory requirements for state lawmakers to disclose their occupations, business associations, property, or income to the public, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

That has to change.

Multiple efforts in the Michigan Legislature to require disclosure have failed over the years. The current proposal has been watered down so lawmakers would only have to disclose information to a panel of other lawmakers — not the public.

That’s not good enough.

We entrust legislators with tremendous power.

They decide who benefits from billions of dollars in state money and several billions more in federal money doled out by the state. They decide how much of our paycheck goes to the Michigan Treasury, which businesses benefit from tax break incentives, and numerous other policies affecting everything from our health and safety to how our kids learn.

We should know whether the decisions those lawmakers make benefit them or us. And we can only know that if we know the scope of their business and how they fill their wallets.

Lawmakers, do the right thing. If you’re truly in this for public service, make yourselves accountable to the public.

Mandate disclosure, and then abide by those mandates.

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