LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – It was a long day for Arkansas lawmakers on Monday as the first day of the special legislative session came to an end.
The bill that took center stage Monday was the revisions to the Freedom of Information Act. Lawmakers were set to consider updates based on a bill announced by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday that will keep details about her travel private for safety reasons.
Many lawmakers, Republicans included, have voiced concerns over this security umbrella being too broad, specifically deliberative process. They have all noted their concern that this interferes with transparency.
This created a day of back and forth for lawmakers, with delays over sending it to committee for it to be read for the first time, and which committee it would go to.
Ultimately, Senate Pro Tempore Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) and lawmakers decided to pull this bill back and have submitted a new one with amendments Republicans wanted to see.
He said in an interview Monday that the bill would have had support from Republicans in order to pass, but he wanted to ensure they did not have hesitations giving it the ‘ok.’
A committee hearing has been set for 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
Another issue quickly arose Monday night, after dozens of Arkansans waited all day on action to be taken on the FOIA bill that never did.
As a result, Senator Hester said the Senate State Agencies Committee could meet to hear public comment, despite lawmakers not taking a vote Monday night.
Hester later came in and told the crowd there was no new bill written yet for them to speak on, so the meeting never began.
“Wow, I have been a regular political activist since 2010 and this is one of the craziest days I have seen at the capitol,” said one citizen, Julie McDonald, after it wrapped up.
Hester apologized to the crowd for keeping them waiting and reminded them that the delays are because of the concerns they have voiced to their lawmakers, who are now requesting changes to the bill.
“This is a product of people influencing the bill and that should make you happy,” he told the crowd.
Meantime, one bill did pass through a Senate committee that we have heard about for days now: tax cuts. That bill should be voted on again tomorrow to advance to the House side.
We will continue to follow both bills and keep you updated on air and online.