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Tennessee House Passes Tourism Record Secrecy Bill for 10 Years!


CNS NewsThursday, Tennessee’s House, which is mostly made up of Republicans, moved forward with a bill that would keep the state’s tourism public records secret and out of the public eye. The bill, which was put forward by Republican Gov. Bill Lee, would let the head of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development hide for 10 years any public records that the commissioner and attorney general think are “sensitive.”

The bill is similar to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s privacy protections, which keep records that are also thought to be sensitive from the public for five years, with the option of an extra five years.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Republican Rep. Andrew Farmer, said, “What this would do is allow the Department of Tourism to negotiate with businesses and tourism interests of the state of Tennessee while keeping their trade secrets and proprietary information safe.” Farmer said over and over that talks about “mega-events” like the state possibly trying to host the Super Bowl soon shouldn’t be made public.

Democrats said the bill was bad because it made the government less open. Democrats Aftyn Behn said, “Call me old-fashioned, but I think the public, taxpayers, and our constituents deserve to know what the state is spending money on, and this makes things less clear.” As soon as Behn said what he did, Republicans moved to end the discussion early.

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With four more members voting in person, the bill passed the House with a vote of 69 to 16. It now has to get through the Senate, which has not yet set a date for a vote on the bill. Supporters of the bill, including Farmer, reassured the public that its intent is not to conceal mismanagement or misuse of funds but rather to safeguard sensitive information during negotiations.

Farmer underscored Tennessee’s responsible fiscal practices, distinguishing the state from its federal counterparts. As the bill moves forward, its implications for government transparency and accountability remain subjects of contention and scrutiny within Tennessee’s legislative landscape.

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