Gov. Haslam Starts His Tenure On Wrong Foot By Dismissing Income Disclosure Rules
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said Gov. Bill Haslam’s decision to eliminate the requirement for him and his top aides to disclose their total yearly incomes gives the impression that the new administration would rather govern behind closed doors.
“Tennesseans deserve a state government that is responsive to their needs and transparent in its operation,” Forrester said. “Coming out of the gate with this kind of executive order is disconcerting. “Our government should be more transparent and open, not less. The governor and his staff should be above reproach when conducting state business. Removing the disclosure requirement does nothing to assure citizens government is working on their behalf. If anything, that makes people more skeptical of their government.”
Former Gov. Phil Bredesen required his top administration officials to disclose their total yearly earnings when he came into office in January 2003. Haslam received much criticism during his gubernatorial campaign for failing to disclose his income from family owned Pilot, a national truck stop chain with annual revenues estimated at $20 billion.
Haslam signed an executive order removing the disclosure requirement soon after taking the oath of office on Saturday. His order requires top administration officials to reveal sources of income only, not amounts.
Several of Haslam’s Cabinet members have extensive business dealings in the private sector.
“The General Assembly is also proposing several pieces of legislation that would hamper our ability to know how decisions are being made,” Forrester said.
Forrester pointed out that the General Assembly is mulling legislation that would remove public notices from newspapers, close emergency 911 records and dispatches to the public, close email communications among state and government officials to the public, and make people pay for access to any public record.
“We should not roll back laws and regulations that make our government more accessible to us,” Forrester said. “Too many sacrifices have been made by too many good people to allow this to happen.
“Our elected officials have a responsibility to represent the people who allowed them to serve. Restricting the public’s access to government is not the will of the people. Gov. Haslam and some other members of the state Legislature should remember that going forward,” he added.