A Vanderbilt University poll recently found that 85 percent of Tennesseans think inspection of public records should remain free for citizens.
Two lawmakers filed bills this year that proposed allowing governmental entities to charge fees, similar to the fees charged if a citizen wants to get a copy of a public record.
While the law allows local government to charge for providing copies, it prohibits charging a citizen if he or she simply wants to view a government record without getting a copy. The Tennessee School Boards Association pushed for the bill, but lawmakers tabled the proposal so the issue could be studied over the summer.
The Office of Open Records Counsel held three public hearings this summer – in Knoxville, Nashville and Jackson – where citizens overwhelmingly expressed opposition to new fees, saying they feared it would block access to records that citizens have a right to see. Open Records Counsel Ann Butterworth also conducted an informal survey with government officials and citizens asking their opinions about the current law regarding inspection of public records. Butterworth is expected to produce a report to the Legislature based on the hearings and surveys in January.
The scientifically conducted Vanderbilt Poll surveyed 1,013 registered voters in November and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.
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