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Cost of legislative franking

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"House guidelines are approved by the Speaker and administered by the House Business Office," said Tim Bowlin, director of the House Business Office. "The guidelines are available to members and staff on our internal website. As you will see in the policy, the House Business Office reviews all printed newsletters and electronic items for mass distribution prior to release. The policy also outlines the annual deadlines for the legislative term."

All printing orders go through the Legislative Services Bureau (LSB). Printing requests can be made through either the House or Senate Business Office or directly to the LSB.

The House policy includes extensive rules and regulations on the types of materials that may be sent, while Senate members must meet the same policy regulations. And while there are rules outlining how close to an election materials may be mailed, both policies serve a basic purpose to ensure that mailings aren't overly political or partisan.

"It has changed over the years because of social media, but there have always been standards," said Bill Ballenger, former state representative and founder of Inside Michigan Politics. "They can't go and say and send out whatever they want. Over the years there has been controversy about whether it's too political or campaign literature."

Ballenger said there was much written about franking prior to the electronic information age, but it seems to have become less of an area of concern, perhaps because of the spread of technology. However, it could be a real area of concern that has simply become lost in the shuffle of information.

"In the meantime, social media has taken over," he said. "There are electronic press releases and other ways that legislators can get in contact with their constituents. You are the first call in years on the subject. People have gone to sleep, but it's worth looking at, and not just when there's a scandal developing. Some (legislators) seem to spend their max quota, while others are not spending. There's an interesting story there."

Legislators from Oakland County spent more than $126,000 in postage from September 2014 through August 2015. That includes routine and bulk mail postage, according to figures provided by the House and Senate business offices, with 14 House districts and five Senate districts in the county. Bulk mailings through August 2015 range from zero for some legislators, and as much as $22,295 by state Senator Jim Marleau (R-Bloomfield Township), who in August led the amount spent on bulk mailings in Oakland County.

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