Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin is proposing that the state’s Freedom of Information Act, one of the strongest in the United States, be “modernized.”
Griffin said that new technology had made “it possible for public entities to create and retain more records than ever before, making responding to FOIA requests more complex and increasing the amount of FOIA requests being lodged with public entities.”
This is an Opinion
The attorney general last week announced the creation of a bipartisan working group to examine the act and suggest changes. The members include legislators, lawyers and one member of the media industry, Ashley Kemp Wimberley, executive director of Arkansas Press Association.
The group will give Griffin its recommendations next year, and he’ll then consider adding them to his legislative proposals for the 2025 regular session of the Legislature. The meetings of the seven-member group will not be open to the public.
Griffin said that concerns that the FOI Act might be weakened were “baseless and disrespectful to the members of the working group.”
We don’t mean to be “disrespectful,” but we can’t help but be concerned. You, readers, should be concerned too. One of the members of Griffin’s group is state Rep. David Ray, R-Maumelle, who proposed a bill in the last legislative session that would have gutted the FOI Act, including a provision that would have allowed the government to charge the public — i.e., the taxpayers — for the time it takes to retrieve, review, redact and provide the records if that time exceeds eight hours.
We would welcome improvements to the state’s FOI Act that increased public access to public records, but anything that makes government less transparent to the people who own it and to whom it’s responsible is likely to make government worse.