Saying more openness is needed on the part of Tennessee policymakers, Rep. Susan Lynn has introduced legislation that would require the disclosure of all real property they own other than their primary home.
The Mt. Juliet Republican’s HB 1063 would require all elected and certain appointed public officials, such as those on local and regional planning commissions or state boards, to disclose any real property owned by them, their spouses or any minor children living at home.
“Back in 2006, when we did the ethics reform, we wanted this to be part of the disclosure and simply couldn’t get it done at that time,” said Lynn, who served in the House for eight years before running for state Sen. Mae Beavers’ seat and losing in 2010.
“Leaving the Legislature for two years, like I did, you start thinking about the things you wish you’d done or could have done, and this was one of those things.”
Before the 108th General Assembly session began, Lynn, who chairs the Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee, said she learned of a bill filed by freshman Republican Rep. Kent Calfee of Kingston that called for exempting planning commission members from such disclosure.
“I thought to myself, ‘This is not good,’” Lynn said. “I was getting a lot of Tea Party emails, and they were basically indicting all of us for filing that bill.”
Lynn said she wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, so she called him and asked why he had filed it.
“He said his county mayor asked him to,” she said, adding that after she explained to Calfee the importance of more disclosure, not less, he withdrew his bill and thanked her for calling him.
Lynn’s bill would require the disclosure of the address of the property and the month and year of its acquisition, but not everyone in the General Assembly is in favor of it.
Many have told her that the information is a matter of public record, and that should be sufficient. Her argument is that since it is public record, “What’s wrong with putting it all in one neat, consolidated place to make that disclosure?”
“I’m not feeling a warm breeze right now from the [Local Government] committee,” said Lynn, who postponed a vote on the bill until March 12. “I really feel like I’m standing out there alone. I know it’s the right thing to do, and I hope they will be amenable.”
She said she would entertain an amendment excepting state legislators from the new disclosure requirement, if it’s the only way to make it a requirement for local government officials.
“I think it’s very important for local government to make this disclosure, especially the planning commission members,” she said. “I think property holdings that one has, especially holdings that they hold for some future opportunity, should be disclosed, [because] maybe they’re in a position to vote on things that will make the opportunity better.”
She said she hopes that it doesn’t come to that, though.
“I hope my colleagues see the big picture. They won’t be in office together forever.”