- Governor Sanders has called a special session that will roll back FOIA laws in the state of Arkansas
- Opposition to the anti-transparency bill is growing fast, especially among notable conservatives
- Arkansans across the political spectrum are coming together against this attempt to limit our rights to access government information
Special session starts today, with an agenda that includes anti-vaccine rhetoric, tax cuts for the ultra-rich, and the star of the show, the demise of Arkansas’s historically strong FOIA law.
Sanders has been intent on rolling back the transparency FOIA guarantees since Matt Campbell at Blue Hog Report started asking questions of the Arkansas State Police. He got a little too close to home with FOIA requests about who accompanied Sanders on a plane trip earlier this year.
Campbell filed a lawsuit after not receiving the information he requested. Subsequently, the governor called this special session, claiming that the security of her family is at risk. She has not shown any proof or reasoning that the changes made in the FOIA bill will actually make her family any safer.
The real story here is the opposition Sanders is receiving from her own party. Campbell tweeted this morning that some GOP legislators are being threatened with funding cuts to their districts if they vote against the FOIA changes. Sanders is counting votes and doesn’t like what she sees. We haven’t forgotten that she used this tactic to coerce legislators into voting for the LEARNS Act. It’s showing up again.
Notably, the Pulaski County Republican Party and the Saline County Republican Party have both opposed these changes to the FOIA law (!!!). The Pulaski County GOP even posted in support of Campbell’s assertion that this FOIA bill is an admission of the guilt of the Arkansas State Police’s failure to properly release the requested records. When Matt Campbell’s local Republican Party is siding with him on an issue, it’s a moment for the history books.
Opposition from conservatives goes beyond the rumored legislators and county parties. Conduit News has opposed this legislation in no uncertain terms. They were quick to host conservative UALR law professor Robert Steinbuch for an interview to break down the issues surrounding the proposal. Steinbuch was also interviewed by Austin Bailey of the Arkansas Times in an article about the “all-out assault on FOIA.” Multiple other staunch conservatives who have previously supported Sanders and her policies are adamant that this bill would be a disaster for Arkansas and government transparency.
The biggest question is — Does the governor have the votes? Internal sources are telling us the Governor might be scrambling this morning. She is apparently trying to move the FOIA bill to a new, perhaps friendlier committee than the originally intended State Agencies. It doesn’t look like the Judiciary Committee would give her any more help, and we’re not sure where she might try to put it. We will see where the bill ends up.