State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Rep. Tom DuBois (R-Columbia) have introduced legislation that expands the right of citizens to inspect government records to include the general assembly, committees, subcommittees and ad hoc committees. In other words, the workings of our legislature would be open to the public for the first time.

Believe it or not, this is not currently the case. Section 10-7-503 Inspection by citizens; confidentiality; law enforcement personnel records reads:

Except as provided in § 10-7-504(f), all state, county and municipal records and all records maintained by the Tennessee performing arts center management corporation, except any public documents authorized to be destroyed by the county public records commission in accordance with § 10-7-404, shall at all times, during business hours, be open for personal inspection by any citizen of Tennessee, and those in charge of such records shall not refuse such right of inspection to any citizen, unless otherwise provided by state law.

If approved, the new legislation (SB0222 and HB0437) retains the above text by moving it to subsection (1) but adds this explicit verbiage as subsection (2):

Except as provided in § 10-7-504(f) and in title 3, all records of the general assembly or a committee, subcommittee or ad hoc committee thereof shall at all times, during business hours, be open for personal inspection by any citizen of Tennessee, and those in charge of such records shall not refuse such right of inspection to any citizen, unless otherwise provided by state law.

This is what is commonly referred to as “a good start”.

Hat tip to Bill Hobbs, who correctly observes:

The legislation has a chance to pass in the Republican-lead Senate, which is more open to openness these days than the House, where House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh generally fights such things.

Note that the exception in Section 10-7-504(f) covers unpublished telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, and driver’s license information of public employees or his immediate family member, reasonable exemptions all. For a more complete list of things hidden from the public eye, click here.