Lawmakers Consider Bills to Shed Light on Contracts, Spending

by Chuck Bartels, The Associated Press  on Wednesday, Jun. 18, 2014 5:12 pm  

State Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena.

Dan Greenberg, an attorney and former legislator who spoke on behalf of the nonprofit policy group Advance Arkansas Institute, said the state's repository of criminal records, the Arkansas Crime Information Center, should be accessible to the public.

Those records are restricted to law enforcement use but Greenburg said it would be helpful for the public to be able to at least learn whether public officials and political candidates have criminal records.

Greenberg and Brantley said they want private companies to be obligated to provide financial information related to contracts they have with the state.

"There is no way we can figure out how these services are being run without (greater) transparency," Greenberg said.

Greenberg noted that the Legislature passed a bill that requires the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to develop annual reports on money it gives to corporate interests but he said taxpayers still don't have enough information to decide whether they're getting a good deal.

No one from AEDC was at the meeting, but spokesman Scott Hardin said Wednesday afternoon that the report is posted online.

Sen. Robert Thompson, D-Paragould, said he wants more transparency but said he's heard positive reports at times about government contracting out work. He cited school districts that hire private firms to run their cafeterias.

Brantley said being able to request a breakdown of how a food service company spends public money is a prime example of transparency that benefits school patrons. He said the public would want to know how much food is being bought for the students and what kind.

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