Cox pushes ethics legislation

Ashley Stinnett Aug. 29, 2009, 4:00pm

Mike Cox (R)

DETROIT, Mich. (Legal Newsline) - Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox is proposing legislation that would require state and local officials, candidates for offices and their immediate family members to disclose finances and gifts from lobbyists.

Cox, who is seeking the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nomination, called bill a "first in state history" but much needed to clean-up Michigan's poor track record in financial disclosures.

Should the legislation be adopted, the bill would mandate elected state office holders, directors of state departments, local officials making more than $65,000 a year and candidates for office give an annual reporting of gifts from lobbyists if the gifts exceed more than $250 per year, according to Cox.

The proposed legislation would also require officials, candidates and immediate family to annually report personal financial information.

"If Michigan is to restore its reputation as a quality place to live and create jobs, we must send a clear signal that Michigan is a national leader when it comes to government ethics," Cox said. "We can do that by requiring financial disclosure from our public officials for the first time in Michigan history."

Cox acknowledged that all reports would still be filed with the Secretary of State and that failure to do so would result in a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a possible $10,000 fine.
Cox also proposed another bill requiring public officials to abstain from voting when they have a conflict of interest.

The bill would require public disclosure of a conflict prior to abstaining, would also expand the grounds for conflicts to include business associates and calls for the legislature to create rules to enforce the law, according to Cox.

According to a Center for Public Integrity survey, Michigan ranks last among the 50 states for financial disclosure by its public officials. Only two other states, Vermont and Idaho, currently have no disclosure laws.

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