A former state legislator and a Little Rock lawyer say they’re partnering on an effort to make the provisions of Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act part of the state Constitution, an endeavor we support.
The political odd couple leading this effort are Nate Bell of Lincoln, a former Republican now independent who served six years in the state Legislature, and David Couch of Little Rock, the lawyer and political activist who led initiative campaigns to legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas and raise the state’s minimum wage. They’re working on the first steps toward launching a campaign to amend the Arkansas Constitution to include open-records provisions.
Such an amendment would make it harder for the governor and legislators to weaken the state’s FOI Act. Efforts to gut the act have been made repeatedly over the years, and aren’t likely to let up, as the recent special legislative session showed.
Government “transparency isn’t an issue of left or right; it’s an issue of right or wrong,” said Robert Steinbuch, a law professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and an expert on the state’s FOI Act.