Bills would make state departments more accountable

Sen. Tom Casperson

Sen. Tom Casperson

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation has been introduced in the state Senate that would require most state government departments to pay the court costs of those who prevail in court against a state department or agency.

The legislation is a reintroduction of bills approved last year by the Senate but not the House of Representatives.

Senate Bills 100 and 101 would encourage state departments to work with residents and businesses on disagreements or issues, instead of unnecessarily pushing them into court. Under the bills, should disagreements lead to legal action, and a department loses, it would be held financially accountable unless it could make a compelling case to the court proving its position was substantially justifiable.

“When people find themselves in dispute with state government, too often the government forces legal action because there is no cost to the bureaucracy, but there are significant costs for citizens,” said SB 100 sponsor Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. “This unfair way of shutting people down must be changed.”

Casperson said constituent concerns related to permitting and tax issues led to the legislation’s introduction and to his dedication to resolving them.

“People don’t always have the resources that the government has, and they often drop complaints and comply with department demands,” Casperson said. “Even when they are right and the state is wrong, they simply cannot afford the tremendous costs associated with a court battle with the government.

“It is my hope that these measures will cause state government to think twice. It would save everyone a lot of time and money by working together in a more professional, expeditious manner on these issues instead of going to court. And it would help ensure that the position of the bureaucracy is one that is actually supported by the law, and not simply how it wishes things to be.”

The bills were referred to the Senate Elections and Government Reform Committee for consideration.