Tennessee state and local governments would have five business days to provide members of the public with sought-after documents or justify why they cannot under legislation approved by a Senate committee on Tuesday. The bill, unanimously approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee, also would create an office of open records counsel to handle questions by local government officials and the public about records access, reports the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The bill also would establish an advisory committee on open government to provide guidance and advice to the counsel. “This is the first change in the public record law in a quarter century,” said Frank Gibson, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition on Open Government. He said that in recent years advocates of open government have had to fend off – not always successfully – an increasing array of bills that would shut off access to government information.