Senator Joey Hensley, MD: Tennessee 28th District Capitol Hill Week in Review
November 19, 2020
State Government and Government Efficiency
Legislation calls for transparency in public records – A new law was passed during the 2020 legislative session which puts in place new provisions and penalties for governmental entities that purposefully destroy documents to avoid a public records request. It requires that written and electronic documents that could be subject to a public records request be kept at minimum 12 months. The transparency legislation provides that prior to authorizing the destruction of public records, a governmental entity must contact the public record request coordinator to ensure the records subject to destruction are not pending public record requests. Those found in violation of these provisions can be charged with a fine of up to $500. The measure also authorizes certain persons to seek injunctive relief through a court of competent jurisdiction.
Contingency plan for state agencies keeps Tennessee on track with fiscal conservatism -- The General Assembly acted to add TennCare to the list of 23 state agencies required to prepare contingency plans in the event there is a reduction in funds from the federal government. This requirement was put into place in 2019 so that agencies can be prepared to give a report on the impact a reduction in federal funds would have to those state agencies. The agencies must develop plans for a five percent, 25 percent and 100 percent reduction in federal receipts. This law helps keep the state on track to govern with fiscal conservatism and prepare any economic downturns.
Obsolete laws repealed under legislation to improve TCA efficiently—State lawmakers took action this year to approve legislation to clean up Tennessee’s code (TCA) by repealing obsolete laws in an ongoing effort to ensure greater efficiently. The measure repeals the 1988 County Bounty Act, which was intended to incentivize counties to pursue aggressive drug trafficking enforcement but was never funded or implemented. Removing obsolete or non-functioning laws cleans up the statutes and ensures greater efficiency.
Legislature continues several key departments and agencies of state government after Government Operations Committees conduct sunset reviews -- Government efficiency was on the 2020 legislative agenda as the General Assembly’s Government Operations Committees reviewed numerous departments and agencies of state government as part of the sunset review process. Sunset refers to the automatic termination of a government department, agency or program at the end of a specified time period unless it is reauthorized by the legislature. Upon review, the committee holds the government entity accountable to its mission and the expenditure of taxpayer dollars, and can put into place certain requirements for continuance to meet those goals. The committee provides oversight to 260 agencies of government which come under sunset review on a rotating basis to keep government effective, efficient and right sized.
Some key departments reviewed and continued this year were the Department of Corrections, Department of Finance and Administration, Department of General Services, Department of Intellectual Disabilities, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Department of Transportation and Department of Safety and Homeland Security. In addition, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) was continued as it provided vital services important to recover from the tornadoes that hit the state in March and April and the COVID-19 pandemic. These continuations are in addition to several state key compacts, commissions and advisory councils.
Resolution ratifies recommendation to shore up Emergency 911 fund -- The General Assembly ratified rules proposed by the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board to increase the 911 surcharge collected by dealers of communication service in order to shore up the fund. The Board proposed the rules last August to meet increasing demand. The resolution states that in Tennessee, “all citizens and visitors and businesses rely on and benefit from the life-saving power of and essential public service that is 911.”