Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Information wants to be free: The legislative edition

Posted By on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 at 1:43 PM

click to enlarge bqbjimicqaex7o4.jpg

I felt a little like Admiral Stockdale this morning (why am I here?), joining state Rep. Jim Nickels  for a discussion before a legislative committee about the Freedom of Information Act. There on the panel with me, in a Twitpix from Rep. Duncan Baird, are (from leftg) UALR law prof Rob Steinbuch, former legislator Dan Greenberg and Nickels.

Nickels is leaving the legislature thanks to term limits. He'll be missed. But he wanted to leave the committee with some ideas about legislation to improve the freedom of information law, particularly a way to get into the specifics of expenditures when government outsources work to private contractors. Nickels and I also share an objection to local governments subsidizing chambers of commerce with money spent under the guise of economic development service contracts. That money subsidizes the salary of paid chamber employees who lobby the legislature on all sorts of corporate political agenda items.

Rep. Andrea Lea, who chaired the joint State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee, has some FOI credits on her record and encouraged the discussion. And I had Republican allies when I got to ride some of my FOI hobby horses — the lack of accountability for private foundations intertwined with public institutions (UA, Razorback AEDC, etc.); the insufficiency of accountability on no-bid contracts (Nate Bell and I, together at last); Greenberg's vigorous support of Rep. John Walker's bill to prohibit prosecution of people who do public reporting (such as take cell phone photos of cops beating the tar out of someone).

I lent a word of support to the Republican Party lawsuit seeking to widen Arkansas's too-broad interpretation of governor working papers. Wish they'd been with me back when I was making similar arguments about Bro. Huckabee. I sympathized, too, with Rep. Mark Lowery, still sore that a University of Arkansas lawyer reportedly advised a university official to destroy some documents because they otherwise might be discoverable under FOI. Does Arkansas need a better record retention law and still more and easier access to public documents via the web? Indeed we do.

And we also need live streaming of Senate proceedings.

Rep. Bell said he's working on legislation to require recording of executive sessions of governmental bodies. Too many are being held for impermissible purposes, he suspects. As do I. If a record existed that somebody could review, he proposes that such reviews could be referred to prosecutors when the tapes showed meetings were held for impermissible reasons. There are a number of practical and legal questions about implementation of this idea, but putting the fear of the law in the many scofflaws who sit on governing councils is, I admit, an idea with some appeal.

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Speaking of...

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • An all-star open line

    Here's the Thursday open line and today's video roundup. Also a reminder to check this year's Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team.
    • Apr 28, 2016
  • Critic asks Highway Department to tell truth: No park in 10-lane freeway plan

    A Little Rock developer and critic of the 10-lane freeway expansion for Interstate 30 says the HIghway Departemnt should make clear a park proposal it featured at a public hearing Tuesday night is only a pipe dream. It won't be part of their project.
    • Apr 28, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • Finalists named in UALR chancellor search

    The University of Arkansas System has announced the three finalists in the search for a successor to Joel Anderson as chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
  • Post found at Parkin at UA for dating

    A portion of a post unearthed last week by Parkin Archeological State Park archeologist Dr. Jeff Mitchem was taken to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville over the weekend for studies to determine whether it is actually the remains of a cross erected by DeSoto in 1542.
  • The top 20: Segregation of the affluent

    Thomas Edsall writes about the segregation — by education, geography and other markers — of the people in the top fifth of the income scale in the U.S. He quotes from a recent academic research paper:
  • 2016 All-Star nominees

    Here are the students nominated to be Academic All-Stars. They are listed by their hometowns, as indicated by mailing addresses.
  • Low tactics every day: Walmart education

    State Education Commissioner Johnny Key fired Baker Kurrus as Little Rock superintendent last week because he ventured off the reservation when he presented data to the state Board of Education on the damaging impact of charter schools on the district, which the state now runs. Kurrus was questioning proposed expansions of two charter schools already draining easier-to-educate children from the LRSD.

Most Recent Comments




© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation