Friday, March 13, 2015

Arkansas bill to record and review closed sessions dies after newspapers oppose revised version

A bill to require public agencies to record their closed sessions and have the recording reviewed by the local prosecutor has died in the Arkansas General Assembly. House Bill 1054 was withdrawn from consideration March 11 and referred to an interim study committee.

The Arkansas Press Association originally favored the bill, but opposed it after prosecutors had it changed so that they would not have to review any recording unless five people complained.

"The Coalition found this burdensome and likely would change nothing regarding the abuse of executive sessions by governing bodies, " APA Executive Director Tom Larimer reported in an email to The Rural Blog. "The real killer was when the bill's sponsor again amended the bill to allow attorneys to attend executive sessions," something prohibited by the state Freedom of Information Act.

"Executive sessions continue to be the most abused tool of governing bodies who prefer to conduct the public's business out if view of the public," Larimer wrote. "Any time a bill is filed to amend the executive sessions portion of the FOIA we become very concerned, and for good reason, I believe."

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