Clarksville pushes to remove Sunshine Laws from municipalities

Published 12:14 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2023

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Tennessee’s fifth-largest city wants all municipalities to be able to follow the same rules at the Tennessee Legislature and not the sunshine laws municipalities currently have to follow.

Clarksville passed its 2023-24 legislative agenda with an amendment to ask the Tennessee Legislature to make those changes for all local governments.

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“To allow local governments to fall under the same Sunshine Laws that they follow,” said Council Member Wallace Redd, who proposed the amendment. “They make the laws and we should have the same thing.”

The Tennessee Legislature is not subject to public records laws and is able to hold meetings in private along with its public committee, subcommittee and full body meetings.

The Tennessee Open Meetings Act calls a government body a group of two or more members that can make decisions or recommendations. A meeting is defined as “the convening of a governing body of a public body for which a quorum is required to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision.”

Clarksville Council Member Brian Zacharias said he would vote for the amendment but did give pushback on the purpose of the legislative push.

“I agree that it should be the same,” Zacharias said. “I tend to think that, instead of lessening the restrictions that the Sunshine Laws have on us, maybe we should ask them to consider playing by their own rules.”

Redd said he wants the rules to be the same for the state and local governing bodies and he would have considered a push for the state to change its laws as well.

“I think the Sunshine Law, as written, stifles communication and collaboration,” said Council Member Karen Reynolds.

City recommendations need to be proposed to state lawmakers, who would have to introduce and pass bills at the state level for changes to be made.

Clarksville’s legislative agenda also included a push for Tennessee to allow medical cannabis, a push for Tennessee to share state sales tax like it did before 2002, a push for a statewide Emancipation Day holiday and recommendations for road projects.