Dustin McDaniel (D)
Dan Greenberg (R)
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Legal Newsline)-Legislation opposed by the Arkansas attorney general that would have made public criminal records of elected officials and agency heads has been rejected by state lawmakers.
The bill introduced by Rep. Dan Greenberg, R-Little Rock, would have also made the records of political candidates easier to access. The bill was defeated in a 33 to 56 vote Friday in the Democrat-led House, with 11 members not voting.
"State government already compiles all Arkansans' criminal history from public records. The information in Arkansas law enforcement databases is already public information, already collected by state government employees, and is already paid for by taxpayers," Greenberg said. "It's exactly the kind of information that is supposed to be open to the public under our freedom of information laws."
Strongly opposed by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, the legislation would have specifically allowed for the release of guilty and no-contest pleas entered by officeholders and candidates.
The legislation, outlined in House Bill 1051, would have also made public any pending felony or misdemeanor charges filed in the past three years.
The attorney general, outlining his opposition in a letter to legislators, noted that Arkansas is a closed record state.
McDaniel, a Democrat, said by allowing the public to perform criminal history checks through the Arkansas Crime Information Center would convert Arkansas to an open records state.
Greenberg said the attorney general told lawmakers that they should "protect the privacy" of criminals' public records.
"That didn't make much sense to me, but apparently it was more persuasive to others," Greenberg quipped.
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.