Vendor confidentiality bill moves out of key House committee

A Haslam administration bill that would make confidential the names of vendors who provide goods and services “used to protect government property, government employee information, or citizen information” passed out of the House State Government Committee.

The bill was amended so that it applied to all state government, and allowed local government to opt into the exemption if a local governing body “voted affirmatively to make such information confidential.”

The amendment also allowed for a governmental entity to provide the identity of the vendor to the comptroller of the treasury and to lawmakers on the fiscal review committee, but said those people should not share the vendor identities with others. The amendment replaces the original bill.

State Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, who carried the bill (H.B. 1543) has said the administration wanted vendor names to be confidential to reduce the ability of hackers to infiltrate the state’s systems. He has said knowing the identity of the companies who provide such security would put the state at risk.

State Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville

State Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville

“What this involves is information technology at the state, and not keeping the contracts confidential, but keeping the names of those vendors confidential,” he told the committee on Tuesday. “So that way if there are potential hackers out there, they don’t know what vendors we are using and have an inside run on us.”

The original version of the bill applied to both state and local governments, and did not offer a way for members of general assembly’s fiscal review committee to know the names of vendors. State Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, who raised questions about the bill in the State Government Subcommittee last week, authored the amendment (See: Amendment to vendor bill).

The Senate version of the bill has been assigned to the Senate State and Local Government Committee, but is not yet on its calendar.

If passed, the bill will add to the more than 350 exemptions to the Tennessee Public Records Act created by the General Assembly over the years.

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