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Senate Shelves ECD Transparency Bill for Year

by Andrea Zelinski on April 11, 2012

Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is giving up on a plan to solicit more detailed information from companies receiving taxpayer-funded grants after hitting a snag in the Senate over which details should be made public.

Sen. Bo Watson, a high-ranking Republican who is carrying the measure, opted to shove the bill in a defunct subcommittee that is not expected to meet again this year. The move essentially kills the bill.

“The administration made the decision not to move forward,” said Watson of Hixson. “I don’t anticipate anything happening.”

The administration originally set out to collect and keep confidential information like budgets, financial plans and a list of owners from companies wanting FastTrack grants in exchange for building or expanding their businesses in Tennessee.

The move, SB2207, was intended to give the Department of Economic and Community Development more information to use when deciding whether to hand over taxpayer dollars to those companies.

But the measure was trip upped when lawmakers, including Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, said information about who owns companies actually winning the grants should be made public. ECD has been working since February on some sort of compromise with no success, saying the department “felt there were concerns and questions about this bill that merited further discussion.”

“ECD will spend time over the next year working with stakeholders on the best approach to conducting due diligence of prospective projects in the most transparent way possible while maintaining Tennessee’s competitive advantage,” said Clint Brewer, the agency’s assistant commissioner of communications said in an email.

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