November 28, 2022

Hooray for a Bipartisan, Good Government Ballot Proposal

Guest Opinion
By Mary Keyes Rogers | Oct. 29, 2022

I urge you to vote YES on Proposal 1.

Which one is that? Somewhere in the bowels of Lansing, it is titled: Limits for State Legislators and Financial Disclosure Reports of State Elected Officials. You will find it as the very first ballot proposal on your ballot labeled PROPOSAL 1-22.

Oh, the dreaded ballot proposals! There are eleven on my ballot. Just when you feel proud that you’ve voted for your local and statewide candidates, then waded through judges, regents, and trustees, you face the ballot proposals. I understand the ballot proposals feel like essay questions at the end of a final exam. You can’t fake it and feel good about yourself.

For so many of us, what makes ballot proposals especially tricky is that dreaded last-minute sentiment of, “Oh shoot, I really wish I’d read up on this beforehand.” We may suspect the ballot language has been written to confuse us into thinking it means the complete opposite of what it, in fact, will mandate if passed.

Maybe you, too, have found yourself asking, “Does my yes mean no?”

Proposal 1 is refreshingly straightforward, although a bit clunky. The fact that term limits and financial disclosure were both included within one ballot proposal did result in a trip to court, but it survived.

Clunky as it may be, I adore it. For one thing, it is bipartisan. Tell me, did voting ever smell so sweet? And to make me even a bit more doe-eyed, if that is possible, it is a bipartisan, good government ballot proposal. Be still my beating heart!

Yes, my gentle voters, we have been given the rare opportunity to join with our brothers and sisters across the aisle to perform a bit of a state government cleanup.

Proposal 1 has two parts: Part I brings Michigan in line with nearly every other state in the country by requiring financial transparency and disclosure through reporting to the Department of State. Currently, only Idaho and Michigan have no requirement for financial disclosure of personal finances.

I find it ridiculous that voters need to pass this ballot proposal when the members of the House and Senate should have written and passed this legislation on their own. They have neglected their duty of self-regulation, and now we have to come in and force ethical behavior upon them.

If passed, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and members of the House and Senate must submit an annual report with details of their personal finances including assets, liabilities, sources of earned and unearned income, positions held in organizations, agreements regarding future employment, gifts received, and travel paid for by others.

Let’s examine why and how this proposal got on our ballot. The proposal comes from Voters for Transparency and Term Limits, with leaders from the left and right of Michigan politics. Endorsed by unions and chambers of commerce, the Michigan Manufacturers Association, and the League of Women Voters, this is perhaps the most politically diverse coalition we’ve seen in years.

After presenting the ballot initiative in Lansing, lawmakers pulled a bit of a dirty—but legal—trick by quickly changing some of the original language without providing much public notice for debate and then voted on the changes, which weakened some of the reporting requirements. (For instance, the report would disclose sources of income but not amounts.)

The coalition, although greatly disappointed by the rewording of the disclosure requirement, continues to urge voters to take this first important step. Some will say (disingenuously, I believe) that it should be rejected because it does not go far enough. I strongly disagree. We must vote yes, pass this proposal, and build upon it in future ballot proposals.

Proposal 1 also impacts Michigan’s current term limits in the House and Senate. It would reduce term limits from 14 years to a combined 12 years but allow the entire 12 years to be served in either the House or Senate, which is currently not permitted.

I’m of the opinion there is little difference between 12 or 14 years. If someone is going to be a long-hauler in Lansing, they may as well stay put in one chamber where they know the ropes and have built relationships rather than need to begin all over again.

I will be voting yes on Proposal 1. In January 2023, I will write to my elected officials in Lansing asking for even greater transparency in financial reporting. Please join me.

Mary Keyes Rogers, a Traverse City resident of more than 20 years, hosted the daily talk radio show Mary in the Morning, launched Marigold Women in Business, and has held executive positions in many civic and business leaders’ local, regional, and national organizations.

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