Haslam effort to hide business information falters in TN Senate

A bill that would roll back transparency in Tennessee has stalled out in the legislature. Governor Bill Haslam is pushing a bill that would keep the names of companies that receive state tax incentives secret. The bill is considered to be a counterpart to the state’s “Fast Track” program for economic development and faced stiff opposition when it came before the Senate on Monday.

Tennessee lawmakers have delayed a vote on the bill until Thursday. Business leaders in the state have voiced support for keeping the information private and the measure is considered a key part of the Governor’s agenda. However, some Senators say that if allowed to go forward, the bill will open the door for untraceable corruption.

Under the terms of the bill, companies that receive state tax incentives and other credits in order to build businesses in the state would not be disclosed in public records filings. The information kept secret would include the company organizational structure, ownership data and any marketing materials included in applications for state funds.

In an exchange covered by Nashville Public Radio Democratic Senator Roy Herron of Dresden noted the possibility for corruption inherent in the measure – “And let’s suppose it’s eight years from now. And the new governor that comes in eight years from now has a brother, or a sister, or a child, and one of them owns an interest in the business. And the business comes along, and they want state tax dollars. As I understand this legislation, this would mean, that if there was an ownership interest by a family member of a governor, of a commissioner, or a legislator, any of us in this room, any of them on the first floor, any of them in the administration, that that could be kept confidential, forever.”