A lot of money is going to be spent in Tennessee over the next year, and that means bidding opportunities for Tennessee businesses to win those contracts (and lots of public notice to let our readers know what contracts are available in our community.)

The filing deadline for lawmakers to introduce bills was Feb. 11 and, though we are still weeding through all of the bills filed, there are a couple of themes that seem to be surfacing. One is that many of our local governing bodies are looking to find ways to make electronic meetings a norm, not just while dealing with COVID-19.

There is one bill that has been filed, by Sen. Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro) and Rep. Mary Littleton (R-Dickson) that concerns us, especially when you take into consideration the new budget that has just been passed and all of the money that will be pumped into infrastructure and rural development.

The bill proposes to increase from $10,000 to $25,000 the minimum amount for which a local board of education or the governing body of a public charter school must make purchases or expenditures by competitive bids. Currently, any purchase or expenditure $10,000 or higher needs to have a public notice run to inform the public of the contract and to allow local businesses to bid on those contracts. If this bill becomes law, it would mean that all contracts below $25,000 can be given out to businesses without any notification to the community. I have spoken to several local businesses who said a $10,000 contract is significant and important to their success. The increase in the threshold for public notification is an opportunity for insider deals and corruption to happen in our communities.

Our governing entities have an obligation to be transparent and to proactively let citizens know how government is spending their taxes. By allowing this bill to pass I think we would be allowing our elected and appointed officials to operate without public knowledge and scrutiny, going backwards from transparency. With over a billion dollars that will be spent in Tennessee in 2021, every contractor, every business deserves the right to bid on these contracts. I urge readers to reach out to their local representatives and let them know they do not support our lawmakers taking away business from them.

Carol Daniels is executive director of the Tennessee Press Association.

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