Weakley County mayor says bill puts more burden on county operations
By Sabrina Bates
MVP Regional News Editor
A proposal to allow county government, public-meeting notices to be posted on county websites instead of newspapers is making its way through committees of the 113th Tennessee General Assembly. House Bill 449 (Senate Bill 550) is sponsored by Republican Rep. Elaine Davis of Knoxville. The legislation eliminates the requirement for county governments to publish public meeting notices in a newspaper of general circulation. Instead, government meeting notices would move to a county’s secured website, an e-newsletter or community members could request meeting notices be mailed to them from the county government.
Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum said the proposal would place more burden on employee operations.
“We understand not everyone in our county has access to the internet. We know that people subscribe to their local newspapers to get local information,” Bynum said. Currently, public meeting notices are handled by County Clerk Kim Hughey. She sends notices to the local newspapers and from there, it becomes the responsibility of the newspaper to print the notice and left to the media’s discretion to cover the meeting. Bynum said the county’s obligation is fulfilled once it has been handed to local media outlets. Community members can choose to attend the government meetings or rely on their local media outlets to provide a report from the meeting.
Bynum added another burden would be placed on the county if there isn’t adequate public notice given for government meetings. His assistant, Lauren Rush, handles updating the county-government website.
Most of the county-government websites in West Tennessee do not offer notices, agendas for upcoming meetings or even minutes from past meetings.
The initial bill also includes meeting notices for higher-education institutions
During the bill’s introduction in the House Public Service subcommittee last week, Davis presented an amendment allowing county governments to refuse hard-copy, meeting-notice requests if they feel it is in “bad faith.” She explained officials who believe people requesting meeting notices to be mailed to them are only doing so to put an expense burden on the county could be denied their request.
Rep. Kelly Keisling of Byrdstown told Davis “higher education is having a heartburn” with the proposal and requested she amend the legislation to exclude institutions of higher education in the bill. She agreed to amend it.
“We want government bodies to be able to modernize the way they provide their information,” Davis explained to House subcommittee members. The subcommittee unanimously passed the bill. This week, the Senate State and Local Government Committee will consider the Senate version of the proposed legislation.
Sen. John Stevens represents Weakley County and is a member of the State and Local Government Committee. He may be contacted at 1-615-741-4576 or by email to email@example.com.
Tandy Darby is the House representative for Weakley County. Contact him at 1-615-741-7847 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Davis may be reached at 1-615-741-2287 or by email to email@example.com.