Michigan bill seeks new FOIA exemptions for energy infrastructure, cybersecurity

The Flint water crisis loomed large over a hearing Tuesday on a state bill that would provide an exemption from Freedom of Information Act laws for some public documents surrounding cybersecurity and energy infrastructure in Michigan.

“We’re trying to strike a balance here to protect against people with evil intent,” said the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth.

The bill would allow companies to share information with state regulators about cybersecurity and critical energy infrastructure issues without fear that the documents would become public. Open government advocates, including the Michigan Press Association and the Coalition for Open Government, have opposed the bill, saying it's a step backward.

“It clearly favors operators of so-called critical infrastructure businesses. What is proposed allows the proverbial fox to guard the chicken house," said Jane Briggs Bunting of the Open Government coalition in a letter to the committee. "The ongoing temptation, post-9/11, is to close off all information. It's been done repeatedly and represents a grave threat to the ideals of a democracy and republic.” Continue…