State Rep. Julie Calley is spearheading a plan to update Michigan’s Open Meetings Act to make it clearer and easier to understand.
The Open Meetings Act requires all meetings of a public body to be open to the public and lays out other requirements like providing notice to the public, the keeping of minutes, and what circumstances must be met to allow the body to hold discussions in closed session.
Calley, of Portland, said the Open Meetings Act is frequently referenced by public bodies, the people who serve on them, and the public – yet it currently includes confusing language and complicated legal terminology that can inspire more questions instead of providing clear-cut answers. The solution Calley is offering rewrites the Open Meetings Act using plain language.
“Our current Open Meetings Act is verbose. It features several sentences with more than 100 words, multiple dependent clauses, and an abundance of what could be termed ‘legalese,’” Calley said following a committee hearing on the legislation. “The goal is to find straightforward language that is easy to understand.”
Calley’s House Bill 6423 takes a comprehensive look at the entire Open Meetings Act, making language clearer and more concise and reorganizing the information in a format that is easier to digest – all while staying true to the law’s original intent.
It also incorporates clarifying information compiled over decades by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office that is currently offered in the form of a handbook. For example, the existing statute does not provide guidance on how a public body exits from closed session. This measure clarifies that a majority vote is required.
Calley has worked closely with the Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Townships Association, Michigan Association of School Boards, and Michigan Municipal League, and said she values feedback as the measure moves through the legislative process.
The bill remains under consideration by the House Rules and Competitiveness Committee.
Thank you for granting me this opportunity to serve you the last six years. You have inspired me with your strength, determination, collaboration, sincerity, and compassion. I have met so many fantastic servant leaders in Barry and Ionia counties. I appreciate your partnership, and I will benefit from your example for years to come.
State Rep. Julie Calley, center, recently welcomed a Hastings family to the state Capitol, where they shadowed her as “Representatives for a Day.” Dr. Paul DeWitt and his wife Jennie won the opportunity through the 2020 fundraiser auction benefitting Green Gables Haven, a nonprofit organization in Hastings that serves people impacted by domestic violence. They were accompanied by their grandchildren, Christian and Lily Haire.