Transparency Win For Taxpayers In The Tennessee Legislature
Image: Representative Chris Todd & Tori Venable at The Tennessee Freedom Summit, August 2022. Image Credit: The Tennessee Conservative
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
Yesterday, January 11, 2023 Americans for Prosperity – Tennessee (AFP-TN) in cooperation with Representative Chris Todd (R-District 73-Madison County) helped secure new transparency measures in the legislative process for taxpayers. Amendments will now be added to the legislative tracker in real time, as well as redline edits to legislation.
AFP-TN State Director Tori Venable said, “Tennessee taxpayers have won big today. These robust transparency measures will help citizens better follow the legislative process and hold their representatives accountable. I want to thank Speaker Cameron Sexton and Representative Chris Todd for their work to make this a reality.”
Representative Todd revealed his efforts to increase transparency at the Tennessee Freedom Summit in Nashville on August 20th of last year.
Todd stated that with the new process in place, when citizens visit capitol.tn.gov and navigate to a bill page, amendments will be clearly visible with the rest of the bill’s information.
“I’ve been working for three and a half years on that, I’ve been the squeaky wheel and I won’t quit squeaking,” Todd said.
With the new process, when an amendment is filed at the clerk’s office, it will go online immediately.
At the Tennessee Freedom Summit in August, Tori Venable spoke of the problems with transparency in the Tennessee legislature.
“We have a real transparency issue in Nashville…We have a process called ‘caption bills’ and there are good reasons to have them. However, there is no process to have the amendments published online for public review before those amendments, that can change a bill entirely, are voted on. We want to see every amendment placed online for public review before it’s voted on…,” Venable said.
Todd stated that, as a representative, he couldn’t can’t even see the amendments on his home computer or mobile devices and could only view them on the computer in his office at the capitol that is loaded with a program unavailable outside state government offices.
Todd said that no one could give him a reason why this extra transparency couldn’t be added for the public and that House Speaker Sexton approved the changes to the process to make it happen.
The implementation of this change was not a matter of changing House Rules but is simply a function in the Clerk’s office.
Todd said, “Every week during Session they publish an Amendment Pack, which is an onerous number of pages, it can be a thousand pages and every citizen just has to go over that and figure out what bills are affected by amendments and so this will simplify that. At the same point in time that they free the amendment pack, they’ll put the amendments with the bills and create transparency that will be good for everybody.”
Whether the Senate will follow suit is unknown, but Todd assumes they will probably follow the House’s lead on this issue. The Tennessee Conservative will publish an update to this article once that information becomes available.
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com
4 thoughts on “Transparency Win For Taxpayers In The Tennessee Legislature”
This needs to be codified in detail so it can’t be dismissed or worked around like most things in Nashville. It seems that everything done there has a hidden loophole that can be exploited by the next in charge.
The house rules still allow for an amendment to a bill to be filed by 2:00pm, and then be heard the next day. So, I am honestly now sure how this will play out in terms of transparency. While this tool will allow you to see the amendments brought in real time, it still does not allow ample time for citizens to speak to their representatives about what amendments are being submitted.
Further, caption bills are still in play. With current rules, in less than 24 hours, a bill containing a sentence can become a 20-page bill. Again, that is not transparency.
While I am thankful for the change, it does not change much, unfortunately.
Tennessee taxpayers are financially benefiting the lobbyists
By Tn law politicians pay lobbyists with our money
So complete the job