Thursday, April 19, 2012

Proposal to require interest disclosure by planning commissioners met with resistance in House | The Republic

Rep. Jim Gotto speaks about his bill seeking to require ethics disclosures from planning commissioners during a meeting of the House Calendar Committee in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, April 19, 2012. The Nashville Republican agreed to put off a vote on his bill after committee members raised cost concerns. Raising their hands to seek recognition are House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville, left, and Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill seeking to require local and regional planning commissioners to file interest disclosures with the Tennessee Ethics Commission was met with last-minute resistance in the House on Thursday. 
The bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Gotto, R-Nashville,would subject the state's estimated 3,000 planning commissioners to the same disclosure requirements as elected officials. The companion bill unanimously passed the Senate last month. read more
This is a bi-partisan "good government" bill that should pass. It had the support of House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville who spoke in favor of it. 

Planning commissioners often have more control over how a community develops and what gets build than does an elected council member.  Here in Nashville, if the Planning Commission votes to recommend a bill it only requires a simple majority to pass. If the planning commission votes to not recommend, then it takes a two-thirds vote of all members of the Council.  It can be very hard to get a disapproved bill passed. The planning commissioners have a lot power.

I want to know how the planning commissioners earn their living and who is wining and dining them. Planning Commission member know where the growth is planned to occur.  They are in a position to benefit from the decisions they make, probably more so than any one in government.  Their life and their financial dealings and financial interest should be an open book. Their ethics should be above reproach. 

The opposition to this bill centered on the argument that planning commissioners are volunteers and full disclosure is too much to expect of a volunteer. I don't think so. The move to send the bill back to committee was defeated and the bill was put off for one week. 

Please contract your legislator and urge them to support HB3697.  To contact your legislator, follow this link and click on "house members."  If you are unsure who is your representative use the "Find my Legislator" feature. 

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