LEBANON DEMOCRAT: State Lawmakers consider support to require TVA to hold open meetings

March 8, 2019
In The News

Tennessee lawmakers are considering a resolution to express support for a bill in Congress that would require TVA’s board of directors to hold open meetings.

State Sen. Ken Yager, of Kingston, is asking for a Senate resolution to support a bill in Congress to

require TVA to hold open meetings that the public can attend.

State Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, explained Senate Joint Resolution 192 in a Senate committee meeting this week, in which the resolution won unanimous approval.

“We all know, Mr. Chairman, that the TVA is the steward of billions of dollars of ratepayers money,” Yager told members of the Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee this week. “ But they also make rules that govern the lives and affect the lives of everybody else in Tennessee. Not the least of which is the property owners of this state.”

“I just think in the spirit of transparency and open government, that all of their meetings should be open,” Yager said.

The Tennessee Valley Authority Transparency Act is sponsored by U.S. Rep Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, and co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis.

TVA would be required to hold open meetings, provide minutes

Burchett’s bill would require the board and subcommittees of the board to hold their meetings in public,

provide public notice of its meetings no fewer than six days before the meeting and make publicly available the minutes and summaries of its meetings.

Private meetings could be held with a national security exception, and emergency meetings could be held without the six-day notice.

The current law governing the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which was created by Congress in 1933, requires it to have four meetings a year. But there is no provision that requires the meetings be open to the public, nor that minutes of meetings be publicly available.

The TVA board chooses which meetings it allows the public to attend, as well as whether it will provide any minutes or summaries of meetings to the public. Despite being a government body created by Congress, and its members confirmed by the U.S. Senate, there is no requirement that deliberations of its full board or subcommittees be open to the public.

“I couldn’t agree more with what he’s trying to do,” Yager said of Burchett.

Though it wasn’t mentioned in the Senate hearing, Yager’s hometown of Kingston was the site of a massive coal ash spill in 2008 that damaged property and waterways. The cleanup has cost millions of dollars and sickened workers who have come in contact with the toxic sludge. Some workers have died from their illnesses.