Tennessee, Maryland move on open government initiatives

Maryland and Tennessee are working on new open government initiatives. The Maryland General Assembly started its first open government committee yesterday. The committee will study the state’s legislative process and make recommendations on how to improve the overall transparency of the state legislature. In Tennessee, state lawmakers are looking at a new measure that would put public notices online instead of in print-only editions of the newspaper.

The Maryland open government committee will be chaired by Sen. Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore, and House Majority Leader Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery. Ten other lawmakers from both parties have been appointed to serve on the committee. No official work has come out of the committee yet, but overall goals and a timeline for initial recommendations is expected some time in the future.

Tennessee State Senator Bo Watson is working on a measure that would take all public notices and post them online instead of in print newspapers. The bill is currently undergoing a revision process to address the needs of the nearly one third of Tennessee households without the internet.

The bill faced opposition from the Tennessee Press Association and some open government groups who argue that cutting off information to individuals without access to the internet decreases overall transparency. Watson notes that continuing to put public notices in newspapers amounts to a subsidy for a failing industry and that putting the notices online would cut costs.

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