As you see on this page, Deborah Fisher, who is the Executive Director for the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, has written a column about House Bill 327 and Senate Bill 301 that has been introduced in the state legislature concerning the open meetings law.
It’s a bill, if passed, that could make it more difficult for the public to be a part of a debate in governmental meetings.
The bill, as Fisher explains, would allow almost half of a county legislative body to participate and vote in a given meeting by calling in instead of appearing in person if they meet certain requirements.
The Knox County Commission requested the bill to be introduced for passage. As I recall, several years ago, that particular Commission got in a heap of trouble concerning their under the table and behind the scenes dealings that were taking place.
I guess the COVID pandemic got some of the governmental officials to thinking about voting by Zoom or Conference calls as they have been doing for the past year, that was allowed with certain rules by Gov. Bill Lee.
Through these electronic meetings, citizens cannot visibly interact with the elected officials before and after the meetings. I have seen quite a bit of interaction over the years between officials and their constituents in public meetings. Of course, this bill would be a good idea for officials if they were experiencing an emergency situation. But I just don’t think it is a good idea at this point.