f you want to know everything about the parolee who just moved into your neighborhood or whether the judge hearing your divorce case has been accused of being mentally impaired, you can't — not in Tennessee.
Since Tennessee declared government records open to the public in 1957, lawmakers and judges have spent the last 50 years closing some of those records.
Today, there are more than 250 exemptions to the Tennessee Public Records Act.
Advocates of open government insist it should not be so simple to close public records in Tennessee and they contend that the exemptions are written too broadly, resulting in unnecessary government secrecy.
Now, this year, a bill making its way through the legislature proposes to close records identifying Tennesseans licensed to carry handguns.
"Any special interest who has a friend in the legislature can get records closed fairly easily," said Frank Gibson, executive director for the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. "It's a slippery slope — you close one piece of information on a file, and then two years later you close something else.''