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Tenn. governor expected to sign open records bill

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  1. Freedom of Information
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen is expected to approve the state’s first major revision of its open records law in a…

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen is expected to approve the state’s first major revision of its open records law in a quarter of a century.  

Frank Gibson, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, said that the governor could sign the bill at any time.  

“He’s been supportive of the bill throughout,” Gibson said.  

The bill creates the Office of Open Records Counsel to deal with open records issues for local government and requires open records requests to be available within seven days.

The bill also contains a temporary provision that will allow agencies to charge requesters for their actual time spent filling the request if it takes more than five hours. 

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Randy McNally, said the legislation may lift the state’s open records law up from fourth worst nationally.  

“We’re very happy about this bill,” said Greg Sherrill, executive director of the Tennessee Press Association. “This is the first big update of the open records law in 25 years, so we’re excited about its passage.”  

Under Tennessee’s current open records law, agencies don’t have a deadline for responding to records requests, custodians don’t have to provide a legal reason for denying records requests and citizens don’t have a place to go to find out how to acquire public records. Gibson said that the new bill remedies those problems.