During this Sunshine Week we renew our calls for the Tennessee General Assembly to practice what it preaches in terms of transparency. As we’ve mentioned in this space numerous times before, Tennessee lawmakers promise each year to be more transparent in the budget process.
Specifically, leaders of the General Assembly pledge to conduct their end-of-the-session fiscal negotiations in the open — something they seldom live up to. If any other governing body in this state deliberated the details of a budget behind closed doors, it would be a clear violation of the state’s Sunshine Law. Not so for the General Assembly, which is exempt from the open meetings act.
While the Legislature conducts most of its business in the open, budget leaders from the House and Senate often meet privately at the end of a session to hammer out deals on the new state budget. This is a practice that must end.
These secret meetings are partly responsible for the lack of confidence many Tennesseans have in their government. To restore public trust in the legislative process on Capitol Hill, lawmakers must let the sun shine in on all their deliberations, even those end-of-the-session budget deals.