Gov. Bill Haslam’s staff has refused a request from the Chattanooga Times Free Press for records revealing advice the administration received about legislation to restructure the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.
The Chattanooga daily reports that records it did obtain show that the governor’s staff sought input from regulated utilities and industry associations about the administration proposal. The administration officials, however, withheld records that would show what input they received and who they received it from, citing “attorney work product and deliberative process privilege.”
Tennessee Press Association Policy Director Frank Gibson told the Times Free Press he questioned that argument because the requested information was part of the formation of public policy, not mere conversations between the governor and his lawyer.
The bill, which has already passed the Senate, is scheduled to come up on the House floor Monday. It would change the TRA’s four-member full-time board of directors into a five-member part-time board. The bill also includes new requirements for directors’ education and experience.
Earlier this year, Haslam called for a standardized process for deciding which open records requests are legitimate, saying that while “it’s the public’s right to know,” other requests are “just blanket fishing expeditions.”