When Is A Meeting Not A Meeting?

Well now, isn’t this special? It appears that Tennessee House committees are routinely meeting in secret to discuss pending legislation, but it’s not a violation of the state’s Sunshine Law because, the Tennessee General Assembly says,

… it does not come under the state’s Open Meetings Act or Sunshine Law because one legislature cannot bind a future legislature …

… and also, as House Speaker Beth Harwell explains,

… “they’re not having meetings as you think of meetings.”

Ooooookaaaay. Let’s see, the dictionary defines “meeting” as:

: a gathering of people for a particular purpose (such as to talk about business)

: a gathering of people for religious worship

: a situation or occasion when two people see and talk to each other

Follow the dang link and find out what happened in “meetings” in Speaker Harwell’s conference room. Or, hell, I know y’all are too lazy. Here ya go:

Later, at Harwell’s prompting, Lundberg opened the meeting where a thorough, often-free wheeling discussion of various bills expected to come up in committee or subcommittee was underway.

One bill under discussion involved taking some discretion away from judges on a particular issue.

“By what authority do we tell that branch of government what they can and cannot do?” asked Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, an attorney and former Hamilton County General Sessions Court judge.

No actual votes were taken. But each bill was thoroughly reviewed in a way not always done in subcommittees, which are now tasked with vetting, and committees.

Sounds like it’s a meeting to me! And you know, I don’t see what difference it makes whether actual votes are being taken. It’s the debate that’s important. The media and general public should be notified and allowed to listen in on this debate. I mean I’d looooove to have heard the “pre-meeting” discussion on these gun bills the legislature is voting on this week. And I shouldn’t have needed to be a fly on the wall, either.

Also, I love how the news media was originally refused entry to the House Civil Justice Committee’s “pre-meeting” by Republican Rep. John Lundberg of Bristol because,

…. Lundberg said he “never had anyone come” before …

Yeah, y’know, if you don’t tell anyone there is a meeting, not to mention the where’s or when’s, that’s gonna happen.

FAIL.

2 Comments

Filed under Tennessee

2 responses to “When Is A Meeting Not A Meeting?

  1. “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Harwell said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

  2. ThresherK

    Those not in TN who follow your missives (like me in Connecticut) wondered if all the people involved were Republicans.

    I shoulda known. I really shoulda known.

    BTW, a little cheer for some news from up here: Our Resigned in Disgrace Former Governor John Rowland is going to prison for 2 1/2 years. No details yet if that’s prison prison or white guy prison (h/t Jon Stewart).