Today Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bill 4286, which passed with unanimous support, to improve transparency and reporting for the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Fund, while also issuing her first line-item veto of the administration.“State government must be open, transparent and accountable because taxpayers deserve to know where their tax dollars are going,” Whitmer said. “This bill will help restore trust in our state government by requiring a higher standard of transparency and ensure that the state meets its commitment to those who were wrongfully convicted.”House Bill 4286 requires the attorney general to file quarterly reports to the legislature, fiscal agencies and State Budget Office outlining all payments made from the fund, any compensation payments ordered but not paid, the number of claims awaiting settlement, and the balance of the fund.
Governor Whitmer exercised a line-item veto under subsection (10) of the bill, which would have included a $10 million appropriation to the fund. Governor Whitmer indicated in Executive Directive 2019-7 that she would use her veto power to disapprove appropriations included in bills in order to uphold referendum rights for citizens.
The Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Fund reimburses individuals who were wrongfully convicted under a state law and imprisoned in a state correctional facility for their wrongful imprisonment. Since its creation, $6.5 million has been appropriated to the fund. Currently, there are 39 wrongful imprisonment claims made against the state that have not received compensation for an estimated cost of $24.1 million.
Governor Whitmer included a $10 million appropriation to the Wrongful Imprisonment and Compensation Fund in both FY 19 and FY 20 budgets, and would support an appropriation of money to the fund in a supplemental appropriations bill or a general appropriations bill.
House Bill 4286, sponsored by Representative Steven Johnson (HD 72), will take immediate effect after its enactment.