Lawmakers hold secret meeting to discuss budget

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Legislative leaders from both chambers met in secret Monday in the office of House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh to discuss the state budget.

News reporters and the public were not told about the budget meeting, which occurred immediately after a public meeting of theHouse Finance Budget Subcommittee.

But House Republican Leader Bill Dunn said he didn't consider the meeting to be secret. "I think that's why we left the doors open," Dunn said, referring to the door of Naifeh's office.

Lawmakers were criticized last year for meeting in secret to hammer out budget issues, and some lawmakers said it's common practice to craft the state budget in private.

Harry Tindell, a Knoxville Democrat and chairman of the subcommittee, said lawmakers were "trying to find out what everybody's learned" about the budget and "bring everybody up to speed."

"It wasn't a committee meeting where anything was decided or acted upon," he said.

Deputy Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr also attended the meeting, even though Gov. Phil Bredesen told reporters Friday that he didn't want anyone from his administration attending a secret meeting.

Farr said there was nothing improper about his attendance at the meeting.

"I'm just a resource to answer questions," he said. "I answer questions from legislators one-on-one all time. The same goes for lobbyists and members of the media."

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)