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Citizens organization in Arkansas suggests amending the constitution to support state legislation pertaining to openness



Little Rock, Arkansas – In an attempt to include transparency in the state constitution, the coalition group Arkansas Citizens for Transparency on Monday sent a proposed constitutional amendment to the office of the Arkansas Attorney General.

A group member and law professor at William H. Bowen School of Law, Robert Steinbuch, noted that the Freedom of Information Act has recently been under attack. He believes that including transparency in the state constitution will help ensure that future governments will find it difficult to amend the FOIA.

In fact, Steinbuch stated that further votes will be needed to update FOIA if their proposed constitutional amendment on transparency is ratified.

“If the change is intended to narrow transparency, then there’s a new process and that process is that the legislature must pass it by two-thirds, not a simple majority,” Steinbuch. “Then thereafter, it has to go to the people for them to vote on it, so it’s a double protection and giving the power back to the people about transparency.”

At the conclusion of the most recent special session and previous normal session, Steinbuch mentioned attempts were made to drastically restrict FOIA.

“They said, ‘Look, we’re going to make the law similar to the law that exists at the federal level’, Steinbuch said. “Well, anybody who knows about transparency law knows that the federal Freedom of Information Act is largely a joke, and since when did Arkansansans want to mimic the federal government? We’re Arkansas, we aren’t the federal government.”

According to Steinbuch, gathering public signatures to place the ballot title on the ballot would come when the attorney general approves it.

“I’m hopeful, but I’m cautious that this process won’t become politicized. I’m hopeful that it will be approved because the ballot title is entirely valid,” Steinbuch said. “We’ll see what happens after the ballot title gets approved, then we have to collect some 93,000 signatures. So that’s where we’re going to need the people’s help.”

According to Steinbuch, his organization is also working to amend the current FOIA and is soliciting public feedback on proposed modifications.

According to Arkansas Citizens for Transparency, there will be a Zoom meeting on November 29 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The public is invited, and they will share the URL to the meeting one hour prior on Facebook.


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