Arkansas Freedom of Information Act
- 1 Relevant legal cases
- 2 Proposed transparency legislation
- 3 Transparency report card
- 4 Features of the law
- 4.1 Declared legal intention
- 4.2 What records are covered?
- 4.3 What agencies are covered?
- 4.4 Who may request records?
- 4.5 Must a purpose be stated?
- 4.6 How can records be used?
- 4.7 Time allowed for response
- 4.8 Fees for records
- 4.9 Role of the Attorney General
- 5 Open meetings
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
- 8 References
The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act was established in 1967. It is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies.
The Arkansas Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.
Statutes 25-19-101 through 25-19-109 define these transparency laws.
To learn more about how to make a public records request in Arkansas, please see Arkansas FOIA procedures
Relevant legal cases
Here is a list of lawsuits in Arkansas (cases are listed alphabetically; to order them by year, please click the icon to the right of the "year" heading).
|Arkansas Gazette Co. v. Southern State College||1981|
|Arkansas Hwy. & Transp. Dep't v. Hope Brick Works Inc.||1988|
|Bryant v. Mars||1992|
|City of Fayetteville v. Edmark||1990|
|Kristen Investment Properties, LLC v. Beaverfork Volunteer Fire Department||2000|
|Laman v. McCord||1968|
|Legislative Joint Auditing Committee v. Woosley||1987|
|North Central Association of Colleges & Schools v. Troutt Brothers, Inc.||1977|
|Ragland v. Yeargan||1986|
|Rehabilitation Hospital Services Corporation v. Delta-Hills Health Systems, Agency, Inc.||1985|
|Republican Party of Arkansas v. State ex rel. Hall||1966|
|Scott v. Smith||1987|
|Sebastian County Chapter of American Red Cross v. Weatherford||1993|
|Swaney v. Tilford||1995|
Proposed transparency legislation
We do not currently have any legislation for Arkansas in 2011.
We have no current bill pages for Arkansas from 2010. This may be due to incomplete research.
House Bill 1049 was one of several bills proposed by Rep. Dan Greenberg that was designed to strengthen the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. It provided for review of a FOIA denial by the Attorney General's Office. It was referred to the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee in the House in January of 2009, where it remained as of April 2009.
House Bill 1050 required new laws that would create exemptions to FOIA to identify with specificity which records or meetings the law exempts. Rep. Greenberg said, “This is kind of a blinking red light, so that from now on when somebody tries to narrow the FOI, at least we’ll know.” After failing to pass the House initially, Rep. Greenberg credited the further explanation he gave House members for the bill's passage on January 27, 2009.
The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee endorsed HB 1050, and the bill proceeded to the Senate for a vote. HB 1050 passed the Senate 33-2. Governor Mike Beebe's office has stated that he planned to sign it into law.
House Bill 1053, known as "The Open Checkbooks in Government Act," sought to create an online database of state expenditures. It was referred to the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee in the House.
House Bill 1326, sponsored by Rep. Lindsley Smith (D-Fayetteville), was a revised version of a bill that failed to pass in 2007. HB 1326 would have allowed FOIA plaintiffs who file claims with the Arkansas State Claims Commission to recover attorney fees in successful cases. It was passed in the House and Senate.
House Bill 1623 sought to prevent the disclosure of information regarding concealed weapon carry licenses. It passed the House Judiciary Committee and moved to the House, where 54 members signed on as co-sponsors. HB1623 passed the House 98-1. It passed the Senate 34-0 and returned to the House for concurrence on an amendment.
Senate Bill 251 would have prohibited the release of information about motor vehicle accidents for commercial purposes until 90 days after the accident. The Arkansas Sheriffs Association and the Association of Arkansas Counties opposed the measure, saying that it "attacks a part of the foundation" of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
Transparency report card
A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave Arkansas 72 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "C" and a ranking of 7 out of the 50 states.
Features of the law
- Compare States: Sunshine variations
- Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.
Declared legal intention
The legislative intent of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act reads as follows: "It is vital in a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner so that the electors shall be advised of the performance of public officials and of the decisions that are reached in public activity and in making public policy. Toward this end, this chapter is adopted, making it possible for them or their representatives to learn and to report fully the activities of their public officials."
What records are covered?
- See also: Defining public records
Arkansas defines public records as "writings, recorded sounds, films, tapes,electronic or computer-based information, or data compilations in any medium required by law to be kept or otherwise kept and that constitute a record of the performance or lack of performance of official functions that are or should be carried out by a public official or employee, a governmental agency, or any other agency wholly or partially supported by public funds or expending public funds."
Exemptions to open records include:
- state tax records
- medical/adoption/education records
- archeological and historical information
- grand jury minutes
- unpublished drafts of judicial opinions
- undisclosed police investigations
- "unpublished memoranda, working papers, and correspondence of the Governor, members of the General Assembly, Supreme Court Justices,Court of Appeals Judges, and the Attorney General"
- information that would create unfair competition
- identities of undercover law enforcement
- computer security information
- "personnel records to the extent that disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy"
- home addresses of non-elected employees
- license examinations
- military service discharge information
- records relevant to the security of public infrastructure
It is important to note that according to Arkansas statute, "[n]o request to inspect, copy or obtain copies of public records shall be denied on the ground that information exempt from disclosure is commingled with nonexempt information."
The Arkansas Revised Statutes establish an exemption for the working papers of the Governor, all legislators, judges and the Attorney General. However, this exemption only covers the legislators themselves and the Attorney General and his direct staff and does not include legislative committees and outside attorneys hired by the Attorney General.
What agencies are covered?
- See also: Defining public body
The public records of all government agencies and any agencies supported by public funds are open to inspection.
The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act's broad definition of public body found at has been held to include legislative bodies per Laman v. McCord.
Privatized governmental agencies
Under Arkansas law, private entities which either receive governmental funding or perform a governmental function are considered public bodies and are subject to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
- See also: Universities and open records
The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. This assumption was confirmed in Arkansas Gazette Co. v. Pickens, which held that the Board of Trustees of a state university is a public body. The law does explicitly exclude student information exempt under federal law.
Who may request records?
Originally, any citizen of the state of Arkansas could request records during normal business hours, with the exception of individuals on trial and convicted felons who request information concerning the Department of Corrections. However, the restriction to only citizens of Arkansas has been lifted by recent federal court rulings.
Impact of Lee v. Minner
In 2006, the Judgepedia:United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in the case Lee v. Minner rejected the constitutionality of Delaware's law that disallowed non-residents from making public record requests.
The Third Circuit's rulings are logically applicable to Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, Arkansas, Pennsylvania and any other state that restricts access to records, although its rulings are only legally binding on states in the circuit. As a result, the provision in the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act that prohibits non-residents from access to records is likely to be considered invalid.
Must a purpose be stated?
- See also: States requiring a statement of purpose
The Arkansas law does not require a statement of purpose for FOIA requests.
How can records be used?
- See also: Record use restrictions
The Arkansas law does not place limitations on the use of FOIA requests.
Time allowed for response
- See also: Request response times by state
Public bodies have 24 hours to determine eligibility of a FOIA request.. If the records are unavailable, the department has three business days to assemble them.
Fees for records
- See also: How much do public records cost?
Fees for FOIA requests in Arkansas can include any costs associated with publication and reproduction but cannot include fees associated with the payment of personnel. The department may require the fee to be prepaid if the cost is over $25. Fees can be waived on an individual basis if the records are requested for the public interest and not for commercial purposes.
- See also: Sunshine laws and search fees
The Arkansas law does not allow public bodies to charge for search fees or to charge for the payment of employees involved in searching for records requests.
Role of the Attorney General
- See also: Role of the Attorney General
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for Arkansas does authorize the State Attorney General to provide opinions, albeit non-binding ones, in specific cases involving personnel and job evaluation records. Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(c)(3)(B) states, "Either the custodian, requester or the subject of the records may immediately seek an opinion from the Attorney General, who, within three (3) working days of receipt of the request, shall issue an opinion stating whether the decision is consistent with this chapter. In the event of a review by the Attorney General, the custodian shall not disclose the records until the Attorney General has issued his opinion." However, § 25-16-702 of the Arkansas Code Annotated points out that the only individuals who can request an opinion of the Attorney General are the Governor, heads of the state executive departments, prosecuting attorneys of any circuit, both houses of the State General Assembly and county boards of elections commissioners.
The State Attorney General is also charged with the power of enforcement in cases of FOIA non-compliance. The State Supreme Court case of Bryant v. Weiss (1998), in which the state's top law enforcer was regarded as a citizen entitled to employ the FOIA, affirmed this opinion. Therefore, the State Attorney General may file a request that had been denied to another citizen and, if the request is once again denied, then he/she may bring civil action under the FOIA in place of the original requester.
Public meetings are defined as: "all meetings, formal or informal, special or regular, of the governing bodies of all municipalities, counties, townships, and school districts and all boards, bureaus, commissions, or organizations of the State of Arkansas, except grand juries, supported wholly or in part by public funds or expending public funds, shall be public meetings."
- Arkansas FOIA procedures
- Arkansas transparency advocates
- Arkansas transparency legislation
- Private agency, public dollars-Arkansas
- Arkansas Open Meetings Law
- Text & Status of HB1049
- Text & Status of HB1050
- Lawmakers get back to work, Arkansas News, January 21, 2009
- House approves bill to protect Freedom of Information Act, Arkansas News, January 27, 2009
- Senate panel advances bill on Ark. FOI law, January 29, 2009
- Ark. Senate approves FOI measure, Associated Press, February 16, 2009
- Text & Status of HB1051
- Keep the Sunshine Out?, The Arkansas Project, February 13, 2009
- Text & Status of HB1052
- Text & Status of HB1091
- Text & Status of HB 1326
- Status of HB 1326
- Ark. lawmaker tries anew with FOI lawyer fees bill, February 3, 2009
- Panel endorses bill granting attorney’s fees for FOIA winner, Arkansas News Bureau, February 24, 2009
- Text & Status of HB1623
- Panel advances bill to make concealed handgun permit information secret, Arkansas News, March 5, 2009
- House passes trauma system bill, Arkansas News, March 6, 2009
- Senate approves concealed carry bill
- Text & Status of HB2091
- Text & Status of SB 55
- Text & Status of SB251
- Text & Status of SB 943
- 2008 BGA-Alper Integrity Index
- States Failing FOI Responsiveness, National Freedom of Information Coalition, October 2007
- Freedom of Information in the USA, 2002
- Legislative intent 25-19-102
- Arkansas FOIA
- Arkansas Rev. Stat. 25-19-103(5A)
<ref>tag; no text was provided for refs named
Cite error: Invalid
- Arkansas FOIA
- Open public meetings 25-19-106
State of Arkansas
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