by Steven Hale
It became clear early last week that much of the work done in the final days of the legislative session would be obscured by legislators' frenzied rush to wrap things up as soon as possible. With their self-set deadline quickly approaching, lawmakers have spent the last week pushing through as many bills as they can fit in a day, only taking breaks to meet in committees and schedule more bills.
Perfect timing, then, for the executive branch to dim the lights as well.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported this morning that the Haslam administration is refusing to hand over records showing advice they received — and from whom they received it — about a bill that would restructure the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.
Through a deputy for Haslam's legal counsel, the administration told the TFP that the records were protected by attorney work product and deliberative process privilege. Tennessee Press Association Policy Director Frank Gibson told the paper that argument was dubious, given that the information sought was being used to form public policy.
At the end of the legislative session, the usual rules ensuring transparency and openness are often tossed, supposedly in the name of finishing up the people's work (even if the people don't stand a chance of keeping up). Who knows if Friday night's budget conference committee meeting would have been streamed live on the Internet if Sen. Jim Kyle hadn't requested it? (You can livestream today's activities here.
Calendars for various committees — as well as those for the House and Senate floor sessions, which are typically posted online for the public to see — have either been absent or outdated in recent days. Want to come down to the legislature to make sure your representative has to look you in the eyes when he or she votes on that bill you care about? Good luck knowing when it will come up, or if it will at all.
That's not the fault of legislative staffers, though. They're no doubt working at a frantic pace to sort everything out in an attempt to give their bosses the gift of adjourning today, so they can have the thrill of saying they finished in April.