The free-flow of information from the government to the press and its followers is vital to a healthy democracy. Why then would our government want to chip away at these rights piece by piece, or, in this case, legislative proposal after legislative proposal?
That’s just what’s happening in this year’s Arkansas Legislative session.
There are multiple bills that, if passed and signed by the governor, would be detrimental to our entire freedom of information process, which is protected by law.
Take the proposal from Republican Sen. Hart Hester as an example. Hester is asking to keep the source of the state’s lethal injection drugs a secret. He says he wants to allow the Arkansas Department of Correction “to implement the laws the Legislature passes that the people of Arkansas overwhelmingly support.”
That sounds like a lot of doubletalk to us. Besides, what about the people of Arkansas’s interests in having the right to know what kinds of drugs their tax dollars are purchasing?
These drugs, after all, will end human lives. What if there is a recall on said drugs, or what if further research on them shows that they are, in fact, inhumane?
If there is no right to review the lethal injection policies and procedures, we are left only to trust that the state will do the right thing.
Pardon us if we just aren’t that trusting. The public has a right to know what lethal injection drugs are purchased by the state for executions. There should be no debate on this matter.
Another proposal pending before the House would allow winners of lottery jackpots of $500,000 or more to keep their identities a secret. The lawmaker behind the measure said the move is needed to protect lottery winners.
Opponents of the bill say the measure would prevent the public from knowing whether there was any misconduct in the lottery program.
Say, for example, a lottery winner is kin to the lottery director or someone close to the lottery system. Without a checks and balances formula, the air would be ripe for possible misconduct.
One proposal that we do support is House Bill 1499, which would amend the law concerning the publication of notice required for a statutory foreclosure. This is not only considered important for a newspaper's bottom line — these are considered legal advertisements and generate revenue — but is also key to the access of public information.
The proposal says, in part, that "If the county in which the trust property is situated does not have a newspaper of general circulation as required by subdivision (a)(1) of this section, or for any reason cannot meet the publication requirements, the mortgagee or trustee shall publish the notice in: (1) A newspaper of general statewide daily publication; and (2) The manner required by subdivision (a)(1) of this section."
The bottom line is that secrets are rarely a good thing, especially in government. The more information regarding governmental operations that’s available to the public, the better.
It’s vital to our democracy. We ask that you contact your respective legislators and ask them to vote against any measures that would darken our cherished Freedom of Information Act.
Otherwise, we may lose a little bit more of our democracy.