At the start of the 103rd General Assembly, the Democratic Caucus Policy Group identified several important areas on which to focus this session. The main body of legislation on these points is moving through the committee system. The number one issue identified by the group was making Tennessee have an “Efficient and Accountable” government. In this area, there are three key bills that are making their way.
The first, HB 1249, requires that all legislative and executive branch officials disclose consulting contracts with persons or businesses currently doing business with the State of Tennessee. This Democratic initiative to require accountability through disclosure of legislative consulting contracts was heard on the House floor last Thursday. As amended the legislation will require members of the General Assembly to fully disclose any consulting contracts held with companies currently doing business with the state. The legislation is almost identical to the legislation sponsored by Representative Frank Buck, which passed in May of 2001. The legislation again passed the House of Representatives on Thursday.
The second, HB 1257, requires the Registry of Election Finance to develop an Internet-based electronic filing process for use by all candidates for state public office and all political campaign committees. The timeline for implementation is the 2004 regular August election. A fee structure is established that will ensure the system is self-sufficient. This Democratic initiative is scheduled for debate on the House Floor on Monday night.
And the third, HB 1256, gives the General Assembly the ability to provide more oversight and accountability to the state’s contractual procedures. During the previous administration, non-competitive, sole-source state contracts were awarded to many insiders. These sole-source contracts do not go through the regular bid process, and in many cases the state isn’t paying a competitive rate for a service. The legislation will allow the legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee oversight of the state’s contracting process. All sole-source contracts over $100,000 would be reviewed quarterly by the committee. The administration would be required to provide justification of why the contract was not bid, how long the company providing the service has been in business and all efforts by the agency in identifying competitive purchasing alternatives. This legislation will be heard in the State & Local Government Committee soon.
Accountable government is effective, efficient and responsive government. It addresses the changing needs of the state and its citizens in an efficient, appropriate and equitable manner. It demonstrates sound planning and fiscal management. It encourages its citizens to be informed participants in civic affairs and to become actively involved in the governing process. And it is one of the most important responsibilities I have because virtually all other programs and operations of government depend on an efficient system.
Kerri joins me in wishing your family a very blessed Easter! May your celebration honor its meaning for all of us.