Economic Development Secrecy At Stake in Tennessee…

Secret economic development…always a bad idea, rears its ugly head in Tennessee:

A bill that would restrict access to economic development records is drawing fire, with critics arguing it could open a door to corruption.

A measure proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam to clear up disclosure laws has hit a barrier in the state Senate, amid persistent questions about whether it will actually conceal crucial economic development records from the public. The measure is scheduled to come up for debate again this morning.

Supporters say the bill will give staffers at the Department of Economic and Community Development better access to sensitive corporate information. But critics say the bill would invite abuse by making secret even the names of who owns companies receiving public subsidies…

Critics say the bill, SB 2207, would go too far. The measure lists several groups of corporate records that would be exempt from disclosure, including “organizational structure and ownership.”

Despite that language, ECD officials say the names of the entities receiving grants would still be disclosed to the public. The State Funding Board, which includes the state comptroller, also would have access to sealed records, including ownership structures.

But opponents say the provision would make it easy for state officials, associates and others to use shell companies to receive public grants in secret.

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