House Committee Passes Bill Threatening Transparency Of Tennessee Dept. Of Tourism With Voice Vote Called By Chairman Kelly Keisling (Update 2.23.24)

***Update 2.23.24 – HB1692 is scheduled to be heard on the House Floor on Monday, February 26th. To voice your support or opposition to the legislation, find and contact your representative HERE prior their meeting.***

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The Tennessee Conservative Staff –

The House State Government Committee passed legislation that allows the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development to keep records hidden from the public if the attorney general and tourism commissioner deem it necessary. 

House Bill 1692 (HB1692), sponsored by Representative William Lamberth (R-Portland-District 44), would allow those records to be exempt from public records laws if the information contained in them was considered “sensitive”.  

The legislation was presented by Representative Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville-District 17). He noted that it would provide protections for businesses whose information might be given to the tourism department.

The committee then heard from Deborah Fisher, executive director for the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.

Fisher noted that the group is in agreement with most of the legislation but they are concerned that the bill does not define what would be considered sensitive. In discussion with committee members, Fisher recommended that the bill detail what things should be kept closed.

Additionally, she stated that they were concerned with the fact that one individual was given the authority to make that determination. 

Fisher stated that the bill “goes against the core of the transparency issue.”

The Commissioner of the Tourism Department Mark Ezell then spoke to the committee. According to Ezell, there have been groups who were concerned with making negotiations with the state due to a lack of adequate privacy laws.

Ezell also responded to a question from Representative Tom Leatherwood regarding the definition of “sensitive” information and stated that they were content with the wording that was already in the bill.

Chairman Kelly Keisling (R-Byrdstown-District 38) then called for a voice vote and the bill passed with ayes prevailing.

For the vote in the full State Government Committee, Chairman Keisling chose to use a voice vote to hide the voting records of committee members from public scrutiny. We can only assume that Chairman Keisling supports HB1692 and is responsible for its passage. Chairman Keisling could have used a transparent roll call vote but opted for a voice vote to shield committee members and himself from accountability.

The bill has been sent to the House Calendar and Rules Committee to schedule a hearing for the bill on the House floor.

3 thoughts on “House Committee Passes Bill Threatening Transparency Of Tennessee Dept. Of Tourism With Voice Vote Called By Chairman Kelly Keisling (Update 2.23.24)

  • February 22, 2024 at 10:06 pm

    The committee voice votes NEED STOPPING!!

    • February 23, 2024 at 5:48 pm

      I think 100% of voters agree with you! I want to know exactly how they vote!

      • February 24, 2024 at 3:10 pm

        It’s the 21st century. If you can play trivia games via your phone someone can create a voting app to record the votes in the House and Senate and associated Committees. It will be faster than a roll call (in case that is the excuse for using a voice vote) and the results and “who voted how” are recorded within a few seconds.


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