LITTLE ROCK — Lt. Gov. Mark Darr signed a bill into law Friday while serving as acting governor, an action that a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe said the governor does not condone but will not challenge.
Darr signed Senate Bill 131 by Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood, which exempts the names and zip codes of concealed weapon permit holders and applicants from the state Freedom of Information Act. The bill is now Act 145.
Darr was acting governor Friday while Beebe was in Washington for a weekend meeting of the National Governors Association. Beebe is scheduled to be back in the state Monday.
Beebe had said he had no plans to veto the bill but planned to let it become law without his signature. The bill would have become law Monday.
Darr said Friday he felt there was an immediate need to sign the bill. "Having been an outspoken advocate for Second Amendment rights, I felt passionately that there should be no delays in signing this bill into law," Darr said in a news release.
"Within the bill is an emergency clause which states that once this bill is signed the state of Arkansas can no longer publicly release records concerning persons licensed to carry a concealed handgun or those applying for such a license," Darr said. "The release of such records is an invasion of privacy and threatens the safety and property of the persons identified."
Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said Friday, "The governor does not condone the signing."
DeCample said he did not know whether any Arkansas lieutenant governor had ever signed a bill while serving as acting governor. He said this is the first time it has happened at least since Beebe took office in 2007.
"We always have precedent concerns if something like this happens," DeCample said.
"However, the governor also recognizes that this is a very unique set of circumstances with this bill, and because of that we’re not going to raise any objections," he said. "And by ‘unique circumstances’ I mean just the fact that the governor had already publicly said that he was not going to sign this bill but he was going to let it go into law, he was not going to veto it. It was already a foregone conclusion that this was going to become law."
Beebe and Darr have not spoken about the matter, DeCample said.
Beebe said Thursday he opposed the bill because he had seen no negative results from a legislative compromise reached in 2009 under which the names and zip codes of permit holders and applicants were subject to the FOI law but other personal information was kept secret.