Defenders of open government in Tennessee won an important victory on Capitol Hill this week. State House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said Tuesday she will see that a bill to allow local governments to meet secret does not get a hearing in committee this year. She was joined in opposition to the bill by Gov. Bill Haslam and key leaders of the state General Assembly.
The dubious legislation, which would have allowed governmental bodies to meet without public notice as long as they didn’t have a quorum, was also opposed by this and other newspapers across the state, as well as the Tennessee Press Association and the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.
Proponents of the effort to water down Tennessee’s Sunshine Law say the act is too confusing. On the contrary, the 37-year-old law plainly states: “The General Assembly hereby declares it to be the policy of this state that the formation of public policy and decisions is public business and shall not be conducted in secret.”
The law has been a simple and direct tool for open government in Tennessee. It should never be changed to allow governmental officials to threaten that transparency.