A new Citizens Research Council report examines and evaluates Michigan’s existing legislative oversight provisions and offers suggested reforms, including regular use of sunset provisions, to assure that state government operations are efficient and effective.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Eric Lupher, firstname.lastname@example.org, 734-542-8001
What we found:
- Many elements of effective and ongoing legislative oversight are already in place, including a constitutionally empowered Auditor General, the Legislative Council, oversight elements in the appropriations process, actions by standing policy committees, and reviews by both legislative oversight committees.
- Should Michigan want to move to a more active and comprehensive system of legislative review – one conducted by lawmakers themselves – lawmakers should consider making sunset legislation a more comprehensive aspect, rather than the current political tactic system.
- To take full advantage of the existing direct and implied oversight authority provided to the Michigan Legislature, lawmakers should, first, establish a framework for such authority in a formal setting; at a minimum, as part of legislative rules or through statute.
Current leadership in both the Michigan House and Senate have expressed a commitment to greater legislative oversight in recent years. This is not surprising given the many important challenges that the state government has been called to respond to in recent years – the Flint water crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic are two examples.
With this general legislative interest as background, the Research Council is releasing a new report today – Imagining What Should Be: Robust Legislative Oversight. Robust, intentional and ongoing review of government actions are important to the checks and balances among the branches of government and to the pursuit of an economical, accountable state government.
“The apolitical use of sunset provisions in states with successful legislative oversight really struck me,” said Eric Lupher, President of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. “Their legislative structures for oversight activities include representatives of both political parties. Officials running departments, agencies, and programs know the schedule for review ahead of time. Public trust is enhanced because they know that review isn’t being done to score political points. Rather, the identification of opportunities for service improvement and elimination of wasteful spending is used to save taxpayer dollars.”
Research for this report was conducted by long-time Michigan capitol observer and reporter, John Lindstrom. John’s 36-year career covering state government and politics, including a long spell as editor and publisher at Gongwer News Service, provided him with a unique and informed perspective to research and write about this topic. John’s research included personal interviews with a number of current and former state officials involved with Michigan’s oversight system, some who were able to offer their personal insights into Michigan’s prior experience with the development and use of sunset legislation.
“Two assumptions go into successful implementation of sunset provisions,” Mr. Lupher added. “First, legislative action will not always adequately address policy problems. Humility is important in an era of term limited legislators with little time for Representatives and Senators to develop policy expertise. Second, that society, the economy, and technology are ever changing, so policy solutions that were on target in earlier times might not be the best solutions for today.”