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Amended FOIA bill passes Arkansas legislature, heads to Gov. Sanders' desk

A new bill focused on reforms of Arkansas's Freedom of Information Act is now heading to the House for a vote.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A new bill focused on reforms of Arkansas's Freedom of Information Act has passed the House and is now heading to the desk of Gov. Sarah Sanders.

This comes as the legislation, Senate Bill 10 (SB10), passed out of the Senate on Wednesday by a 29-2 margin. 

SB10 is the restructured FOIA bill that was introduced by Arkansas Sen. Bart Hester on Tuesday evening. This amended proposal allows the state to deny access to details about the governor's security and other constitutional officers who travel on the Arkansas State Police plane. It also denies access to the cost of trips.

"We all don't agree on everything, right?" Hester said. "And so I think that's exactly what happened, here, but we got a vast majority of legislators and I believe Arkansans support of this legislation now."

Some politicians like Sen. Clarke Tucker described the bill as being "broad," but still voiced his support due to "security concerns" surrounding FOIA as currently constructed. 

"We got to a point where everything but the security for the governor was stripped from the bill, and I want to be deferential and make sure that our governor and her family are secure," Tucker said. "So ultimately, that's why I'm going to vote for the bill."

Many Democrats and Republicans were frustrated with the original bill's restrictions on government transparency, including who joins the governor on taxpayer-funded trips.

Senator Bryan King has been one vocal voice against the bill and said more should've been added.

"A sunset clause would have allowed a reset in the 2025 session to relook at this and see how it happens and how it works," King said.

However, supporters claimed the legislation is for the safety of the governor and those around her.

Also on Tuesday, Sen. Hester discussed the new bill with 20 other Republicans, but it didn't come without skepticism from other lawmakers about the scope of it and the rushed process.

"[SB10] focuses on protecting the security details of our governor and her small children," Hester said. "We believe the other sections of this policy that we've been debating over the last few days should continue to be debated because it's very important."

Meanwhile, fellow Sen. Bryan King, (R- Green Forest), shared his frustration with the process for FOIA legislation.

"This last minute, making changes, scheduling meetings, canceling meetings, is not the way to run a process," King said. "In many government areas, we need more transparency, not less... I just want two things down here: a fair word, fair fight."

To read SB10 in its entirety, you can click here.

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