LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Draft legislation being circulated ahead of the upcoming Arkansas General Assembly special session outlines new restrictions to the public access to government records that would stretch back more than a year.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders officially called for the special session Friday morning to run from Sept. 11 to 13. One of the purposes of the special session is to make changes to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act law.

If the proposed legislation is upheld, current FOIA requests, including a court case against the Arkansas State Police, could become moot, as the proposed legislation includes an emergency clause making it retroactive to Jan. 1, 2022.

A draft of the proposal for the legislation was circulated prior to the Friday announcement, as reported by Talk Business and Politics. The draft legislation would restrict access allowed under the current Arkansas FOIA, which the attorney general’s website states is “generally considered one of the most open in the country.”

The legislation would add “the planning or provision of security services” and “deliberative processes of state agencies, boards, or commissions” to what is exempted from FOIA requests. It would also broadly exempt security records for the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer, commissioner of state lands, general assembly members and supreme and appeals court justices.

It has not been confirmed if the circulated draft is the same bill that will be introduced in the special session, likely on Monday.

A suit has been filed in Pulaski Court against the Arkansas Station Police to compel the agency to release documents related to Sanders’ travel expenses, including on the state police airplane. The suit claims ASP  only partially responded to an FOIA request for the records, citing security concerns.

The retroactive component seen in the legislation draft could make the suit moot.

Attorney General Tim Griffin formed a group to review and suggest FOIA changes in mid-June. His reasoning at the time was the changes in technology required changes to the law to keep up with modern times.

Sanders echoed this view in the Friday announcement.

The special session is also expected to address tax cuts, COVID-19 response legislation and clarifying laws passed during the regular session, which adjourned on May 1.