Free­dom of in­for­ma­tion ac­tions

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS -


The leg­is­la­ture rushed through a mea­sure that shielded from the pub­lic the emer­gency ac­tion plans re­quired for po­ten­tially un­safe dams — an idea that arose after nearly 200,000 people were forced to evac­u­ate fol­low­ing a spill­way fail­ure at the state’s sec­ond-largest reser­voir.


Texas again con­sid­ered a plan that would ef­fec­tively shut down its pub­lic records law to any re­questers who live out­side the na­tion’s sec­ond most pop­u­lous state.


Law­mak­ers suc­ceeded in pass­ing a bill that al­lows un­prece­dented se­crecy for the state’s $1 bil­lion gam­bling in­dus­try by clos­ing ac­cess to the de­tailed an­nual fi­nan­cial state­ments of the state’s 19 li­censed casi­nos. Those records had been pub­lic for decades. The change came in re­sponse to lob­by­ing from casi­nos, which had ob­jected to a re­quest from an out-of-state com­peti­tor for the records.


Law­mak­ers passed 19 new ex­emp­tions to the Sun­shine Law, the sec­ond most in at least two decades. The de­tails of how pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties in­ves­ti­gate cy­ber­at­tacks and pre­pare for emer­gen­cies are now con­fi­den­tial. The iden­ti­ties of people who wit­ness mur­ders, use med­i­cal mar­i­juana or get in­jured or killed at work­places must also be with­held. Law­mak­ers also ap­proved a bill re­quir­ing records of crim­i­nal charges that re­sult in ac­quit­tal or dis­missal to be au­to­mat­i­cally sealed. Op­po­nents ar­gued it would harm pub­lic safety by de­priv­ing em­ploy­ers of rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion about one­time sus­pects who avoided con­vic­tions for any num­ber of rea­sons. Sup­port­ers said it will pro­tect the wrongly ac­cused from em­ploy­ment and rep­u­ta­tional reper­cus­sions.


Law­mak­ers pro­posed a bill that would keep the state data­base of fired po­lice of­fi­cers se­cret after Wi­chita tele­vi­sion sta­tion KWCH ex­posed how some cities were hir­ing of­fi­cers with check­ered pasts, in­clud­ing a chief fac­ing a federal in­ves­ti­ga­tion after be­ing fired three times. The bill, which was backed by the state’s law en­force­ment train­ing agency, stalled after the sta­tion’s news di­rec­tor warned law­mak­ers it would make gov­ern­ment “less open, less trans­par­ent” around the crit­i­cal is­sues of po­lice mis­con­duct and pub­lic trust.

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