Proposed bills seek to clarify, change law related to government settlement agreements

A collection of bills introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly are aimed at clarifying or changing parts of the law surrounding government settlement agreements.

Government entities are prohibited from entering into confidential settlement agreements. The Court of Appeals has said that “a governmental entity cannot enter into confidentiality agreements with regard to public records. The idea of entering into confidentiality agreements with respect to public records is repugnant to and would thwart the purpose of the (Tennessee Public Records) Act.”  (Contemporary Media v. City of Memphis, 1999.)

Lawmakers have filed at least three separate sets of bills:

State Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville.

Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Rep. Carson “Bill” Beck, D-Nashville, have filed legislation that would allow confidentiality of the identity of victims of sexual harassment, sexual offenses, domestic assault, incest, and child abuse and endangerment involved in settlement agreements. However other information related to the details or the identities of the persons in the settlement would remain open. HB594 / SB1262

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, have bills that would add affirmative language in the Tennessee Public Records Act that says a government entity cannot enter into confidentiality agreements with regard to public records. SB478 / HB665

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga.

Sen. Gardenhire has also filed legislation with Rep. Sabi “Doc” Kumar, R-Springfield, that would disallow government entities from purchasing insurance without using a public bidding process, and prevent any such insurance entity chosen by the government entity from entering into confidential settlements on its behalf. The bill provides an exception to allow the names of minors or victims of alleged criminal offenses to be redacted from settlement agreements. SB480 / HB617

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