Across US, lawmakers chip away at public's access to records

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. >> In February, Arkansas lawmakers marked the 50-yr anniversary of the Freedom of Info Act with a decision calling it “a shining instance of open authorities” that had ensured entry to very important public data for generations.

They spent the next weeks debating and, in lots of instances approving, new exemptions to the regulation in what critics referred to as an unprecedented assault on the general public’s proper to know.

Once they have been completed, universities might maintain secret all info associated to their police forces, together with their measurement and the names and salaries of officers. Public faculties might defend a number of details associated to safety, together with the identities of academics carrying hid weapons and emergency response plans. And state Capitol police might withhold something they believed could possibly be “detrimental to public security” if made public.

Whereas hailed by lawmakers as commonsense steps to thwart would-be terrorists or mass shooters, the brand new legal guidelines left grandmother Annie Bryant frightened that she and different mother and father might now be stored at the hours of darkness about how faculties shield youngsters.

“I don’t need to be overly aggressive to the purpose that we block out avenues and find yourself robbing mother and father, robbing college students of details about their security,” stated Bryant, who lives in Pine Bluff and spoke out towards the varsity safety secrecy throughout a legislative listening to.

Lawmakers throughout the nation launched and debated dozens of payments throughout this yr’s legislative periods that may shut or restrict public entry to a variety of presidency data and conferences, in accordance with a assessment by The Related Press and quite a few state press associations.

Most of these proposals didn’t develop into regulation, however freedom-of-info advocates in some states stated they have been struck by the variety of payments they believed would hurt the general public curiosity, and they’re bracing for extra fights subsequent yr.

Nebraska lawmakers debated whether or not to maintain secret the id of the suppliers of deadly-injection medicine utilized in executions. The California Legislature rushed by way of a measure that shielded from the general public the emergency motion plans required for probably unsafe dams — an concept that arose after almost 200,000 individuals have been pressured to evacuate following a spillway failure on the state’s second-largest reservoir. Texas once more thought-about a plan that may successfully shut down its public data regulation to any…

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