Bill to allow more meetings of Advisory Committee on Open Government wins approval

The Advisory Committee on Open Government will be allowed to meet more frequently and at the call of co-chairs under legislation that has won approval from both the Senate and the House.

Previously, the committee met only at the request of the Office of Open Records Counsel.

State Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, and Chair of House State Government Committee

ACOG is a 14-member committee established by the Legislature in 2008 as part of open government reform. Its 14 members, equally representing government and citizen groups, are appointed by the Comptroller’s office. It also has three ex-officio members.

The committee’s purpose and duties include advising the Office of Open Records Counsel and providing information to the General Assembly on open records and open meetings issues.

At the time of its organization a decade ago, an open government study committee made of up lawmakers asked for it and the then-new Office of Open Records Counsel to study several specific issues.

The bill, carried by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, is intended to give the advisory committee more structure and allow it to be a more functional group.

The legislation requires the committee to elect co-chairs from the 14 appointed members — one from its government agency representatives and one from its citizen group or press representatives.

Other changes:

  • Requires the committee to meet at least once each calendar year, and at the request of a majority of its members or at the call of its co-chairs.
  • Requires the committee’s meetings to be open to the public and subject to the Open Meetings Act.
  • Requires the advisory committee to provide reports on open records and open meetings laws and issues as requested by the governor or any committee of the general assembly.
  • Clarifies that the committee would only review proposed legislation “if requested.”
  • Requires that any written comments or reports by the advisory committee have “unanimous consent of the co-chairs.”
  • Requires an annual report from the advisory committee. Before, the Open Records Counsel and advisory committee were required to provide a joint annual report; now they would provide separate reports. Also requires reports go to the governor, the speaker of the house and of the senate, and to the chairs of local and state government committees.

The members of the committee include, by statute, representatives from:

  • Tennessee Municipal League
  • Tennessee School Board Association
  • Association of Chiefs of Police
  • Tennessee Board of Regents or University of Tennessee
  • Tennessee County Services Association or the County Officials Association of Tennessee
  • Tennessee Press Association
  • Tennessee Coalition for Open Government
  • League of Women Voters
  • Tennessee Association of Broadcasters
  • Society of Professional Journalists
  • Tennessee Hospital Association
  • Tennessee Sheriff’s Association
  • AARP
  • Common Cause

See a list of current members.

The three ex-officio members are a designee from the Attorney General’s Office filled by Janet Kleinfelter, the chair of the Senate State and Local Government Committee filled by Sen. Ken Yager, and the chair of the House Senate Government Committee filled by Rep. Bob Ramsey.

The advisory committee has already been asked to produce one report in 2020. In legislation that awaits the governor’s signature, the advisory committee is to produce a report “evaluating the impact and effectiveness” and “identifying considerations and recommendations relative to its continuation, revision, or expiration” of a new law that allows candidates for president at state colleges to be confidential except for one to three finalists selected by a search committee.

What do you think?