2019 Tennessee Code
Title 3 - Legislature
Chapter 6 - Ethics and Lobbying
Part 1 - Tennessee Ethics Commission Act of 2006 — Ethics Commission
§ 3-6-117. Exclusive authority to issue formal advisory opinions.
(a) The commission is the only entity authorized to issue formal advisory opinions. All opinions that deal with any statutory provision or provisions that are in any way subject to interpretation, unclear or uncertain, or subject to dispute as to their meaning or application are formal advisory opinions. With respect to an issue addressed in a formal advisory opinion, any person who conforms that person's behavior to the requirements of the advisory opinion shall not be sanctioned if it is later determined that the advisory opinion did not correctly interpret the statute. A person who requests an advisory opinion shall be entitled to withdraw the request at any time before the opinion is issued, in which case the commission shall not issue the opinion.
(1) Except as provided in this subsection (b), under no circumstances shall a person performing staff duties as an employee of the commission have the authority to issue an advisory opinion, including an informal response.
(2) A person performing staff duties as the executive director or as an attorney is authorized to give informal responses to any person subject to the jurisdiction of the commission in accordance with this subsection (b).
(3) The commission shall make and keep records of all inquiries and all informal responses given, including the name and position of the person making the inquiry, the entity, if any, on behalf of which the inquiry is made, the date of the inquiry, the person responding to the inquiry, the precise inquiry, including the facts and background information provided and the section or sections of statute involved, and the answer or response given.
(4) The commission shall compile all of the information in subdivision (b)(3), which shall include a mechanism to ascertain the responses to all inquiries about the same statutory section, so that the responses will be consistent or can be prudently revised if necessary.
(A) An informal response may be given verbally or by electronic mail. Any verbal informal response shall be verified by electronic mail. Whether or not a request for an informal response is answered verbally, all informal responses shall be issued by electronic mail to the person who made the request, with a copy to the members of the commission. Each informal response shall:
(i) Set forth the facts and background information of the inquiry;
(ii) Cite the relevant operative statutory section or sections and the language in the section or sections on which the response is based; and
(iii) Refer to any relevant advisory opinions issued by the commission that relate to the inquiry.
(B) The informal response shall be based on such information, the operative provisions of the cited statute and the legislative history pertaining to the statutory provisions, as evidenced by legislative committee and floor actions, discussions and debates. In addition, the informal response shall indicate whether the statute and any previous opinions are clear or unclear on the issue.
(6) If the person who requested the informal response conforms that person's behavior to the requirements of the informal response, then that person shall not be sanctioned if it is later determined that the informal response was not a correct response or incorrectly interpreted the statutory section or sections or commission advisory opinions on the issue.
(7) Any informal response shall be subject to review or modification by the commission. Any person who disputes the informal response given by the staff employees in subdivision (b)(2) shall have the right to request a formal advisory opinion from the commission.