Tennessee Legislature Addresses Public Records Laws in 2019 Session


This week The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government released a list of new public records exemptions and public records laws passed during this year’s legislative session.

“Citizens can expect some bills related to public records to re-emerge when the Legislature reconvenes Jan. 14, 2020,” TCOG Executive Director Deborah Fisher wrote.

“One of the more significant bills that was delayed, but attracted a lot of attention late in the session, would create a process for an injunction against a public records requester whose behavior was deemed ‘harassment,’ as well as require government entities to post ‘basic government information’ on their websites.”

Among the new public records laws, as compiled by the TCOG:

• The Tennessee Public Records Act now requires that “any legislation that creates an exception to the open records requirement of § 10-7-503 deeming records of public entities to be open for inspection by the public must be referred to the government operations committee, according to the rules of the house of representatives.”

“The House government operations committee then is required to give a positive, neutral or negative recommendation before the legislation would continue its process through the committee system.”

• A new exemption makes confidential a person’s home street address, zip code, telephone number, driver’s license number and insurance information that is contained in any motor vehicle accident report confidential. Other information in the accident reports remain open to the public, including the names of the individuals involved in the accident, the cities or counties of their residence, their dates of birth and information about the accident itself, according to the TCOG’s website.

• “Because of increased betting on college sports and potential pressure to gain insider information, the University of Tennessee sought an exemption that would protect records of coaches and sports teams that are traditionally not disclosed to the public,” the TCOG reported.

The new exemption makes confidential ‘records maintained by an intercollegiate athletics program of a public institution of higher education…if the records contain information relating to game or player integrity and that is traditionally not revealed publicly due to the public institution of higher education’s need to maintain competitiveness in the sport to which the records relate.’”

• A new law allows clerks of juvenile courts under direction of their judges to dispose of records in “delinquent and unruly juvenile court cases” 10 years after the juvenile has reached 18 years old. The law allows the district attorney to file a notice of opposition to the proposed order to destroy any such records.

The remainder of the updates are available on the TCOG’s website.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Deborah Fisher” by TCOG. 





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