NASHVILLE (AP) – Ownership records of companies seeking economic development grants should be available to the public, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Thursday.
The Blountville Republican spoke to reporters about Gov. Bill Haslam's proposal that would seal off information about those companies.
Haslam has called for the public records changes as part of his plan to offer more cash incentives for companies to invest in Tennessee.
The bill closes off information regarding "business processes, organizational structure and ownership, financial statements, budgets, cash flow reports or similar materials." A Senate vote on the proposal was again delayed Thursday from earlier in the week.
Critics say ownership records, in particular, should be public.
Sen. Roy Herron said during a debate on the Senate floor Monday that he doesn't see a compelling reason to hide such records.
"Who do we want to give the taxpayers' money to that we don't want the public to know about?" the Dresden Democrat asked. "The temptation for corruption is too great."
Ramsey said much of the information is already private and certain information is needed "to make more informed decisions."
However, he said ownership shouldn't be kept confidential. If a company receives a grant, then information should be divulged at that time, he said.
"We're working ... to make sure that anything that should be made public is made public," Ramsey said. "We're not trying to hide anything."
Read SB2207 at capitol.tn.gov.
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