By Lindsay VanHulle, Bridge Magazine
A Republican state senator is again trying to prevent Michigan lawmakers from taking new jobs lobbying their former colleagues in the Legislature immediately after leaving office.
Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, introduced a bill to prohibit former state legislators from working as registered lobbyists for two years after they leave office — three, if they ever served as chairman of a legislative committee. The fear, he said, is that, without a “cooling-off” period, lawmakers may be tempted to support policies that help them gain their next job, rather than focusing their votes on what’s best for Michigan.
Sen. Rosemary Bayer, a freshman Democratic state senator from Beverly Hills, is a co-sponsor of Runestad’s latest bill. She said the relationship between lobbyists and legislators is “too tight” and a function of strict legislative term limits.
“It looks very suspicious, even if it’s not,” Bayer said. “If we put a boundary in there, a barrier in there, then it becomes obvious that we’re working above the board, right? It’s very clear that there’s no direct relationship between what I just did last December and what I’m doing now not that I’m in the Legislature.”
Michigan has been ranked at the bottom of states when it comes to government ethics and transparency. The state also has the strictest legislative term limits in the nation, with lawmakers limited to six years in the House and eight in the Senate. Some outgoing legislators move into lobbying once they’re termed out of the Legislature, creating the perception of a “revolving door” that leaves citizens in the dark.