Legislature brings sunshine online and offers expanded televised coverage of meetings to provide greater transparency in state government

By Senator Ken Yager

(NASHVILLE, TN), February 25, 2011 — The 107th General Assembly convened for business on February 7, 2011.  After re-electing the Speaker and Constitutional Officers in the organizational session, the standing committees (eight) were appointed and have begun work. 

Over 2,082 bills have been filed in the Senate and 2,124 in the House.  It is very important that the citizens be able to learn more about these bills and track their progress.  I think it’s appropriate and important to use my first legislative report of the 107th General Assembly to get word out regarding how citizens can follow the legislature’s work.

Lack of transparency prevents the public from actively participating in government and from raising questions or expressing their opposition to unfair or ill-advised decisions.  That’s not how good government works.   In Tennessee, we are fortunate to have an excellent legislative website.  You can use this website to read each bill, find its sponsor, look for any proposed amendments and watch its progress in the Committees and on the Senate floor.  

In fact, our General Assembly has received two prestigious awards for open government last year for our website design which promotes openness and transparency in government.  The National Conference of State Legislatures awarded the Tennessee General Assembly its “Online Democracy Award” for making democracy user-friendly. The award recognized “Tennessee’s navigation, depth of content, openness and availability of information to the public.”  We were also awarded the Digital Governance Award for Leadership in Digital Access. That award is given for “strong government transparency and public access improvements.”

All citizens can view proceedings live on the Internet or the local PBS TV channel.   On the Internet, they can also review archived meetings conducted previously which are filed on the website by committee and date.  If you choose the PBS option, you can find us on WKOP Knoxville, WETP Sneedville and WTCI Chattanooga.

I hope many of our local citizens will view our State and Local Government Committee, which I chair, to listen to our proceedings.  State and Local has the heaviest traffic of bills than any committee in the Senate.

Never in our nation’s history, have citizens had the opportunities that this generation has to have information delivered to them in such a fast and direct manner.  Technology has changed our world in many ways.  One positive way is that we now have more information at our fingertips with the touch of a television remote or a “click of a mouse.”   This has enhanced our ability to provide this openness in government. 

The cornerstone of this freedom is transparency in government, and as networking technologies have advanced over the past decade, so has our ability to bring government directly into the homes of our citizens.  This nation is built on freedom, giving all Americans the right and responsibility to participate in their government.  Freedom basks in sunshine.  It is our duty to bring this technology to the citizens.  By doing so, Tennessee has been recognized as a model for bringing government openness into the 21st century.

Citizens can access the website at:  http://www.capitol.state.tn.gov/


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