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Michigan government transparency bills gain traction in Lansing

Michigan government transparency bills gain traction in Lansing
Michigan government transparency bills gain traction in Lansing 02:37

LANSING, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - It was an eventful week in Lansing for government transparency, as Michigan's Attorney General and Secretary of State both testified in favor of a package of bills that would increase government transparency and accountability. 

"I know that many, many Michigan lawmakers are dedicated public servants, driven by a sense of duty to their communities and a desire to improve the lives of their constituents," said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. "But these bright lights are often crowded by dark clouds of corruption that thrive in the shadows that are allowed by our current weak ethics and transparency laws."

Benson testified in favor of the BRITE Act, which stands for Bringing Reforms in Integrity, Transparency and Ethics, on Thursday. She was joined by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who announced charges of corruption and embezzlement against former Republican Speaker of the Michigan House, Lee Chatfield, earlier this week. 

"I've heard it said by some that these bills don't go far enough," said Nessel during her testimony. "What these bills provide is a start. A solid, earnest, serious effort towards the goal of ending corrosive forces in Michigan government, creating better transparency, and allowing a path forward to earn back the trust of the public."

The seven-part bill package would implement lobbying guidelines, reporting requirements for political nonprofits, and disclosure of certain entertainment gifts or travel expenses. 

"The BRITE Act is the strongest, broadest package of ethics legislation that Lansing has seen in decades," said state Rep. Erin Byrne, who chairs the House Ethics and Oversight Committee. "We have several bills focused on dark money accounts, also known as C4s. That's a space in state government and federal government as well that, based on the Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United, is really allowed to operate in the shadows."

Democratic lawmakers say they're seeing traction on these bills because they have control of both chambers in the legislature. 

"The difference here is that Democrats are in charge, and we have a chance to change this and to fix it once and for all," said state Rep. Jason Morgan, one of the bill sponsors. 

CBS News Detroit reached out to Republican House Minority Leader Matt Hall for comment, but he was not available. 

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