Bill That Obscures Deals Made Through Department Of Tourist Development Passes In Both Chambers Of Tennessee Legislature

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –

A bill that obscures deals made through the Department of Tourist Development has passed in both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly.

(SB2093), being carried by Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin-District 27), aims to to block public access to records detailing deals made through the department.

The Senate passed the bill last week, but the legislation ended up back in the House this week due to an amendment added by the Senate. The House had previously passed the bill without the amendment. For the legislation to move forward and pass into law, both chambers had to concur on the same version of the bill.

While the Senate amendment states that the department “adopts as its official policy the principle of open records” and that “information and documents maintained, received, or produced by the department are open for inspection by the public” it allows records to be hidden from public view if the tourism commissioner is in agreement with the Attorney General that information “is of such a sensitive nature that its disclosure or release would seriously harm the ability of this state to negotiate events, contracts, agreements, or administer grant programs.”

The legislation will make such “sensitive” documents confidential until one of following occurs first:

(A) Ten years has passed from the date that the documents were deemed to need confidentiality;

(B) After the disbursement of state funds;

(C) After the conclusion of the event in which the contract or event was negotiated;

(D) Upon the expiration of a contract entered into by the state of Tennessee.

The records cannot be destroyed during the time they are hidden from the public and must be retained for at least five years after being released.

On Monday, the House approved the Senate’s amendment, voting 73 to 17 to pass the bill, similar to a law passed in 1988 allowing the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to keep records secret for five years.

The General Assembly website records the House vote on HB1692 as follows:

Representatives voting aye were: Alexander, Baum, Boyd, Bricken, Bulso, Burkhart, Butler, Capley, Carr, Carringer, Cepicky, Cochran, Crawford, Darby, Davis, Doggett, Eldridge, Faison, Farmer, Fritts, Gant, Garrett, Grills, Hawk, Hazlewood, Helton-Haynes, Hicks G, Hicks T, Hill, Holsclaw, Howell, Hulsey, Hurt, Jernigan, Johnson C, Keisling, Kumar, Lafferty, Lamberth, Leatherwood, Littleton, Lynn, Marsh, Martin B, Martin G, McCalmon, Moody, Moon, Powell, Powers, Ragan, Raper, Reedy, Rudd, Rudder, Russell, Sherrell, Slater, Sparks, Stevens, Terry, Todd, Towns, Travis, Vaughan, Vital, Warner, White, Whitson, Williams, Wright, Zachary, Mr. Speaker Sexton — 73.

Representatives voting no were: Barrett, Behn, Camper, Clemmons, Dixie, Glynn, Hakeem, Hardaway, Hemmer, Love, McKenzie, Miller, Parkinson, Pearson, Richey, Shaw, Thompson — 17.

Only two Republicans, Representatives Jody Barrett (R-Dickson-District 69) and Bryan Richey (R-Maryville-District 20) voted against the bill.

Now that the bill has passed both chambers it will next be signed by House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Senate Speaker Randy McNally before being forwarded to Governor Bill Lee for his signature. Lee may choose to sign the bill into law, veto it and send it back to the legislature, or allow the bill to become law without his signature by letting it sit on his desk unsigned for a ten-day period.

Since taking office in 2019, Lee has never used his veto power. Given that House Sponsor William Lamberth has said that the bill was created in part because of a request made by Lee’s administration, it is unlikely that Lee will use his power to veto this piece of legislation.

About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at

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