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A Good Day For the First Amendment at the Capitol

Updated: Apr 13

Today was a good day for free speech in Arkansas. In the Senate State Agencies Committee, Rep. Richard Womack’s HB 1669 passed; it will now head to the full Senate. The House has already passed a slightly different version of this bill, which helps ensure citizens’ right to record public events. The bill states:

A public officer or employee shall not: Prohibit a person from using a recording device carried on or near the person in a place that is open to and accessible to the general public or any private property where the person is lawfully present…

The bill also bars unnecessary seizures of devices and deletions of electronic data. In other news, Rep. Clarke Tucker’s bill regulating political speech was soundly defeated in the House State Agencies committee. If Tucker’s bill had become law, those who contributed to an “electioneering communication” 60 days before a primary or 90 days before a general election would have their personal information disclosed publicly. Disclosure as an antidote for corruption is a good idea, but this bill would have created a chilling of political speech for citizens who donate to issues they’re passionate about. For an example, one need look no further than the Proposition 8 campaign in California in 2008. As you may remember, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was forced out of his job when the public learned that he donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign in 2008. This was just one of several retaliatory incidents caused by California’s overbroad disclosure laws. In short, Arkansans shouldn’t have to worry about having their livelihood or well-being threatened just because they wish to be involved in the political process. Tucker’s bill would likely create — or further — such a regrettable outcome.

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