LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Here is the latest on the Arkansas extraordinary legislative session for Sept. 13.

5 p.m. update: The House State Agencies Committee reconvened at 2 p.m. and heard testimony on the alternative Freedom of Information Act bill filed Tuesday ahead of House Bill 1012, which the committee sent to the floor for vote that morning.

Rep. Representative Julie Mayberry (R-Hensley) filed HB 1011 Tuesday afternoon and had two Senate co-sponsors. It stripped all changes to the FOIA but the change to security records and changed the 2022 retroactive date from Jan. 1 to June 1.

Mayberry explained to the committee her logic on the date change using the example of a FOIA lawsuit underway against the state.

“There is a lawsuit that is pending on this [FOIA compliance],” Mayberry said. “Are we going to have, in the future, anytime that there might be a lawsuit pending on something, are we going to be asked to come up here and change law and make it retroactive so that lawsuit can not exist?”

House legislation would extend special session

2 p.m. update: Legislation was introduced in the House Wednesday by Rep. Stephen Meeks (R-Greenbrier) to extend the special session to amend the Arkansas Data Centers Act of 2023

That act, passed during the recent general assembly, placed regulations on crypto-mining facilities, but did not establish noise limits and only generally addressed noise regulations.

The newly proposed legislation is asking for more time so legislators can look to establish sound standards and “demand-response agreements” according to its title

Commercial crypto-mining is generally high-noise and uses a lot of power, as much to keep the computers doing the work cool as powering them. One facility in Meek’s district has led to residents complaining about noise.

Also on Wednesday Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest) filed a letter with the Senate secretary explaining that he intended to vote no on the Freedom of Information Act bill passed by the Senate earlier in the morning but was out of the chamber when the vote was taken. He asked the secretary to include his letter in the journal for this session. That bill has passed the Senate 29-1. 

Revised FOI bill passes House committee

11:40 update: The House State Agencies Committee has approved House Bill 1012, identical to the recently passed Senate Bill 10, making relatively minor changes to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

The next step for HB 1012 is to go to the House floor for a vote. If it passes without any amendments it will be sent to the governor’s desk for signature. 

The House vote is set to happen Thursday morning.

Revised FOI bill passes Senate

After two hectic days, the Arkansas Senate passed legislation just before 10:30 a.m. changing the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. 

This most recent version of the legislation was filed last night as Senate Bill 10 and stripped out all proposed changes except for excluding governor and cabinet security “planning or provision of security services.”

The legislation continues to include language to make it retroactive until Jan. 1, 2022.

Testimony before the Senate State Agencies Committee generally indicated support for SB 10, the latest FOIA change proposal, unlike the previous day’s testimony for Senate Bill 9, or public complaints and statements about Senate Bill 8 on Monday.

Committee testimony was given by some who opposed the retroactivity clause that has been in each version of the bill. Generally, those who spoke were in favor of SB10.

SB 10 was approved by the committee in a vote just after 10 a.m., shortly before the Senate vote. Identical legislation is due for a vote in the House today as well.