Exception to open government law in new Senate bill

Feb 8, 2017

There could soon be tighter restrictions on the public’s access to information in bids for state business. A state Senate committee has adopted a bill that would shield information on bidders’ trade secrets and finances.

State Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) says the Freedom of Information Act discourages businesses from bidding on government work. Jones says his bill matches a standard used in 42 other states and by the federal government to protect confidential information.

“I love transparency, but you don’t give away trade secrets,” Jones says. “You don’t give away a company’s financials.”

But an attorney for the news industry says Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act already protects sensitive, proprietary information.

Robin Luce Hermann of the Michigan Press Association says “I don’t see why this is necessary.” She’s concerned the state would use a new exemption to further stretch limits on the public’s right to examine how government contracts are approved.

The full Senate could vote on the bill next week.