Senate committee approves bill requiring more financial disclosure by lawmakers

The Senate State and Local Government Committee recommended for passage legislation that would require members of the General Assembly to disclose when they receive trips paid by a person with an interest in public policy.

State Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, and state Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, came about after stories reported by The Tennessean of a Gulf Shores fishing trip hosted by a school voucher advocate,  a trip to Europe for lawmakers to learn about “radical Islam,”  and trips to tour a North Carolina school, also funded by a voucher proponent.

Overbey told the committee that his bill does not prohibit such travel gifts, but requires that lawmakers report it.

The legislation requires that the amount and source of funds be disclosed when paid by a person with an interest in a public policy of the state if the travel was for the purpose of informing or advising the member with respect to the policy.

“I’d like to be clear that this bill does not forbid such travel expenses being paid, does not preclude it, simply says members will disclose so that the public will know if a member is traveling in connection with public policy and that’s paid for on behalf of the member by a person with an interest in public policy that that will be disclosed,” Overbey told the committee on Tuesday.

“It’s not directed at anyone or any member of the General Assembly but it was brought about by some of things that I know some of the members of this committee have seen reported,” in newspapers, he said.

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, asked if it would require disclosure of trips, such as those paid for to attend the Southern Legislative Conference.

Overbey deferred to state Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, who said that he thought it would, noting that the legislation says “persons,” but “corporations are persons, too.”

See: Ethics bills would require lawmaker disclosure of gifts, including for travel


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