The Tennessee state Senate today delayed taking action on a bill that would keep information secret about companies seeking state grants.
The idea is that if the state Department of Economic and Community Development would keep certain information secret about companies applying for state money, they could make better decisions about handing it out.
The original version would have made a great deal of information secret, even who owns the company. Democrats fought the idea, and some prominent Republicans weren’t happy either, including Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey.
“Now some will argue that maybe ownership shouldn’t be divulged, they don’t want their name divulged. Well, don’t ask for a grant. That’s pretty simple. There’s certain things that should be divulged, and that’s one of them.”
Ramsey says he has confidence in ECD but wants more accountability by companies getting state subsidies for development.
The bill was also on the House floor, but the lower chamber put it off taking action for a week, indicating that they’ll let the Senate do the heavy lifting of re-drawing the bill.
The ECD confidentiality bill, SB 2207 Norris / SB 2345 McCormick (http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/default.aspx?BillNumber=SB2207) was re-referred to the Senate Commerce Committee to be amended to be more to the Senate’s liking.
Rough drafts of fix-it amendments would seek to divulge company ownership, amount of grant funds and the expected number of new jobs, but would still shield marketing plans and other trade secrets.
Ramsey says the intent of the legislation originally was to create a greater flow of information to ECD decision makers parsing out money under the Fast Track program. That fund usually funds specific job training needed for companies to hire new workers, but can also finance infrastructure – water lines is one example. Ramsey:
“The bottom line is, most of this information doesn’t get out now. And the reason we got this bill is where we can ask for this information, and then divulge it, once
they get the grants, that’s my goal. I’m not sure that was in the original bill, but that’s one of the things we’re working toward.”