On the Origin of TN’s ‘Sunshine Law’

The Tennessee Legislature, which through much of the 1960s would routinely exclude the public and press from lawmakers’ “executive session” meetings, in February of 1974 adopted a landmark law that states in its preamble:
“The General Assembly hereby declares it to be the policy of this state that the formation of public policy and decisions is public business and shall not be conducted in secret.”
The statute is known as the “Sunshine Law,” and passage marked a change in attitude from prior years. It also marked a rare case of legislative advocacy by the state’s newspapers, represented by the Tennessee Press Association, with the late Ralph Millett, then editor of the News Sentinel, and Sam Kennedy, then editor of the Columbia Daily Herald, as point men.
“We decided to take the initiative, something that, as a matter of policy, we did not do,” recalled Kennedy in an interview last week. Normally, he said, the TPA became active in the Legislature only in opposing bills considered bad, not pushing legislation considered good.
The full article, written as part of a News Sentinel series on the newspaper’s history over the past 125 years, is HERE.

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