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Public-notice bill fails in Tennessee House committee


MVP Regional News Editor

A proposal to allow local governments to post their meeting notices to a government-secured website was recently halted by the Tennessee House State Government Committee.

HB 449 states municipalities could give adequate notice of public meetings on their websites, provided the site is secure.

The bill would make provisions for those requesting meeting notices be mailed to their home, as long as the person requesting a mailed notice is not acting in “bad faith,” or attempting to create an expense burden on the governing body. The bill also allowed for meeting notices via e-newsletters.

The initial bill included public notices of higher-education institutions, but was amended last month by removing those from the measure.

House bill sponsor, Elaine Davis (R-18) of Knoxville, told House State Government Committee members the bill is permissive, which allows entities to continue to utilize newspapers of general circulation for their meeting notices or place notices on their websites.

State Government Committee vice-chair Rep. Rick Eldridge (R-10) of Morristown asked if it is a requirement for governing boards to provide public notices in newspapers. The committee went into recess to allow legislative attorney Matt Mundy to research the current law.

Mundy explained boards are required by law to give adequate public notice and newspapers of general circulation were considered avenues for adequate notice.

“We still have several people in our district without internet access. The Tennessee Press Association puts all of their public notices on a website, which costs nothing,” Eldridge said. He added there are several newspapers in his district and many people who rely on those newspapers to get their information.

A handful of county mayors recently polled said they would continue to rely on their local newspapers for public-meeting notices if the proposed bill becomes law.

After a voice vote in the House committee, HB 449 failed with nine voting against the measure and seven voting in its favor.

The companion bill SB 550, introduced by Sen. Adam Lowe (R-1) of Calhoun, was recently deferred to the general subcommittee of the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

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