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With no finished FOIA bill, Senate president pro-tempore calls off plan to hear input Monday night

by Neal Earley | September 11, 2023 at 8:26 p.m.
Senator Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, speaks in the well during a meeting of the Senate in special session on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023. Hester explained that he was still in the process of writing a bill that would change sunshine laws in Arkansas, and asked the senate for an indefinite recess until he finished writing the bill...(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Senate President Pro-Tempore Bart Hester, R- Cave Springs, called off plans to hear public input Monday night on a bill that would overhaul the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

Speaking to a full committee hearing room at the Capitol on Monday evening, Hester explained an updated version of a bill to exempt new types of government records from the public. Speaking to a obviously frustrated group of people who came to testify against the bill, Hester said he expects a new bill to amend Arkansas’ sunshine law Monday night with a vote coming Tuesday in the Senate.

The plan had been for the Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs to hold a public hearing on the bill Monday night and possibly vote on the bill Tuesday morning.

“It’s just not ready,” Hester said. “We just simply do not have a finished product to even hear.”

Earlier in the day, the Senate voted to suspend its normal rules to speed up the time frame it can pass bills during a special session, something Hester said is “very standard of the special session process.”

Fellow Republican Sen. Bryan King of Green Forrest interjected, saying “No, it’s not.” Hester then asked King if he would like to answer questions for him instead and left the committee room.

“This is not a transparent process,” King said.


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