Proposed Open Meetings Changes Could Weaken Current Law

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- What started as a legislative effort to strengthen the law that prevents local government officials from meeting in private could end up weakening the law instead.

Tennessee's Sunshine Law currently prohibits local government officials from meeting behind closed doors to conduct public business, but there is no penalty for breaking the law.

Lawmakers formed a committee to study changes to the state's open government laws.

Last month a subcommittee from that group voted 7-2 to make it legal for two or more members of a panel to deliberate in private as long as a quorum of the body is not present.

Supporters of the proposed change say it's not meant to circumvent public meetings laws, but instead to let a few members of a public body discuss important issues without having to call a public meeting. Detractors worry the change would allow private dealmaking.

The subcommittee is expected to discuss further changes to the law tomorrow. The full committee meets to vote on the proposed changes on November 27 and 28.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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