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.

Georgia Business Development Deal Dies…

The Georgia bill that would have afforded secrecy to government and private business looking to locate in Georgia is dead for this session.

Senate Bill 159, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, will not be considered for passage this session, according to Matthew Colvin, the senator’s spokesman. Today was Crossover Day, the point in the legislative session where if a bill hasn’t received a vote in either chamber it dies.


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Another Nasty Little FOI Exemption On Tap, This Time in Georgia

Secret economic development deals, anyone? Sweetheart tax deals, land giveaways, and who knows what else could be wrapped up and placed under the tree?

The Coastal Courier in Georgia has the scoop:

Isn’t there enough secrecy in government? Apparently not, according to Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who earlier in the current legislative session introduced a bill that would curtail transparency in government by allowing governmental and quasi-governmental agencies to keep certain information from the public.
Under the legislation, dubbed SB 159, entities such as city councils, county commissions and development authorities would not have to disclose what businesses and industries they might be working to attract and how they might plan to use taxpayers’ money to court these businesses.

The language in Senate Bill 159 actually first reared its head six years ago in a similar measure, House Bill 218, which passed in the House but died in the Senate amid much public outcry.