Sep 14, 2023 - News

Legislators narrow FOI bill to governor's security

Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) speaks for Senate Bill 10. Screenshot: Arkansas State Legislature

After pushback from Republicans and Democrats on a proposed bill to significantly change the state's Freedom of Information law, legislators filed new bills late Tuesday.

State of play: Mirror language in Senate Bill 10 and House Bill 1012 now limit the proposed amendment to records related to the security detail of the governor and constitutional officers — much narrower than original bills.

Why it matters: Supporters say the FOI law needs to be updated to reflect modern communications and to protect Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders when she travels.

  • Opponents largely agreed with the governor's security portion of the bill, but said other sections proposed earlier in the week would erode government transparency.

The latest: SB10 passed the Senate and the House committees on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs. It now advances to the House.

  • Its mirror, HB1012, passed the House committee and will advance to the full chamber before heading to the Senate.

What they're saying: "This is a great starting place for making our government safer and more effective, and I look forward to its final passage," Sanders posted on X.

Meanwhile, if enacted, the bills are retroactive to June 1, 2022, a point of contention for many Republicans and Democrats alike.

  • The backdating would include Sanders' entire time in office, likely impacting attorney Matt Campbell's lawsuit to obtain her travel details and expenses.
  • Yes, but: The bills require the Arkansas State Police to submit a report identifying expenses for the governor's security to the Arkansas Legislative Council each quarter.

Of note: The less-controversial tax-cut and COVID-19 mandate ban bills continue advancing through both chambers.

What's next: Since lawmakers didn't conclude their business on day three, they'll convene again today — the House at 8:30am and the Senate at 9am.


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