If you’ve been following the final days of Arkansas’s legislative session, you know that taxpayer-funded lobbyists have been pushing hard to narrow the scope of the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) through SB 373. It’s been an embarrassing session for state university lobbyists in particular, who explained to credulous legislators that FOIA-shrinking legislation was needed to solve a significant problem — namely, that lawyers suing the state were abusing the Freedom of Information Act. As the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette revealed last week, this problem doesn’t exist. So what’s the real reason that these lobbyists want to weaken the FOIA? Well, here are a few ideas: more particularly, here’s my theory about the top ten reasons that university lobbyists want to pass SB 373.
10. University of Central Arkansas President Lu Hardin sentenced to five years probation and community service for fraud and money laundering.
9. Arkansas State University Chancellor Tim Hudson resigned after an internal audit revealed he attempted to hire his wife, Dr. Deidra Hudson, as the school’s full-time studies abroad director.
8. University of Arkansas-Little Rock Dean of the Business School Anthony Chelte removed from deanship; resigned after audit recommended his personal reimbursement back to government of $15,000 of questionable travel expenses.
7. University of Arkansas fired head coach Bobby Petrino for unfairly hiring his mistress and intentionally misleading his boss about everything from the mistress relationship to her presence at the motorcycle accident that ultimately cost him his job.
6. Angela Davis, the purchaser of several guns that were used by domestic terrorists to carry out a violent hostage-taking that became a mass murder, received at least $4,000 in taxpayer money as a speaking fee for her appearance at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock. (Davis was acquitted of kidnapping and murder some years ago at her trial.
5. University of Arkansas-Little Rock athletic director Chris Peterson fired after being caught talking about an athlete’s mother’s breasts on a live soccer stream.
4. University of Arkansas-Little Rock baseball coach Scott Norwood “resigned” after accused of bullying his own players.
3. Bowen School of Law Dean Michael Schwartz resigned after a string of questionable decisions, including attempts to block journalists from public meetings and offering students counseling because of the 2016 presidential election.
2. University of Central Arkansas President Allen C. Meadors fired after he failed to tell school trustees that a food services company’s $700,000 grant to renovate his university-owned house came with strings attached.
1. University of Arkansas Foundation discovered to have a $4 million shortfall resulting from improper accounting, resulting in several high-level resignations and retirements.
Two days ago, SB 373 failed dismally in the state Senate, with only 11 of 35 state senators supporting its passage. The bill remains on the Senate calendar; both yesterday and today, its sponsor — state Senator Bart Hester — declined to bring it up for a second vote, presumably because he was pessimistic about the bill’s prospects. However, the possibility of yet another vote on SB 373 in the final days of the session remains a clear and present danger for the Freedom of Information Act. Because the bill has already narrowly passed the House, a Senate vote is the final legislative hurdle necessary for SB 373 to become law.