Senate Committee Passes FOIA Exemptions

capitol3Information on bids, quotes or proposals involved in a procurement process would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) until after the contract is awarded under Senate Bill 69, which was voted out of the Senate Government Operations Committee. The information would be publicly available after a vendor is selected, but trade secrets, proprietary and other financial information about a company that may cause competitive harm to the company would not be available through a FOIA request under this legislation.

According to the bill sponsor, Senator Rick Jones (R-24), the purpose of the bill is that companies would not be able to see other companies’ contracts. “When companies find out that a department of state is going to do a process, they FOIA to see how much a state has to pay to make their bid higher, which hurts taxpayers,” Jones said. According to a report in Gongwer, Senator Jones said that by including this protection, he is also hopeful that companies, especially in the health care industry, will take another look at bidding on state projects in Michigan because their financial interests or trade secrets can continue to be kept from competitors. Officials with the Department of Technology, Management and Budget testified in support of the legislation.

MAB attorney John Ronayne III researched the bill and, though according to Mr. Ronayne certain parts of the bill are already covered under a FOIA exemption, trade secrets clearly are not. The MAB never likes to see exemptions to FOIA, but in this case we feel that the trade secret exemption is reasonable as long as it is narrowly applied.

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