Secret ‘pre-meetings’ become commonplace in Tennessee House

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – House members scheduled to debate and vote on key bills later in the week are increasingly holding secret “pre-meetings” to discuss pending legislation.

No public notice is given for the closed-door meetings held at odd times in conference rooms tucked away around the legislative office complex.

Supporters say the pre-meetings give lawmakers a chance to have a free-flowing discussion about bills without the interference of lobbyists, the scrutiny of the media or the nuances of parliamentary procedure.

But without public access, it’s impossible to verify whether lawmakers are keeping promises not to predetermine the outcome of later committee votes.

Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville tells reporters she leaves it up to her committee chairs to decide whether to hold pre-meetings.