Contact: Darlene Schlicher (615) 741-6336 or email: [email protected]
(NASHVILLE, TN), July 22, 2010 — Combining the offices of Tennessee’s Registry of Election Finance with the Tennessee Ethics Commission has far exceeded the original cost-saving estimates according to testimony delivered today to the Joint Committee on Government Operation’s State and Local Government Subcommittee. The General Assembly voted last year to merge the Tennessee Ethics Commission and the Registry of Election Finance, keeping the boards independent, but under one umbrella named the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance in order to lower operating costs. That action has meant a savings of approximately $600,000.
According to the financial analysis delivered by the General Assembly’s Fiscal Review staff when the bill was debated last year, merging the two offices was expected to result in a net cost savings to the state of approximately $256,400 in the 2009-10 budget year and $316,200 in subsequent years. Bureau Director Drew Rawlins told the Subcommittee today that maintaining the staff separately cost about $1.37 million in the 2008-09 budget year. During the 2009-10 budget year, the cost of operating both divisions under the new Bureau umbrella was $770,000 according to early estimates.
“The decision to combine the Registry of Election Finance and the Ethics Commission has clearly created the efficiencies the Committee expected and Senator Ketron predicted, exceeding original estimates” said Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Bo Watson (R-Hixson). (Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) sponsored the bill to consolidate the staffs of the two entities.) “We reduced spending without sacrificing quality – a winning combination,” Watson continued.
Also testifying at the meeting was Common Cause spokesman Dick Williams who supported the bill to merge the two agencies administratively. Common Cause is a watchdog organization on matters pertaining to ethics and campaign finance. Williams said the merger made a lot of sense because it allowed for “one stop shopping” for those who had questions or needed information regarding campaign finance and ethics.
The Registry of Election Finance handles campaign finance issues, while the Ethics Commission handles lobbying information, ethics complaints and statements of interests from members of the General Assembly.