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APA Editorial Contest deadline approaches

APA Legislative Review

ARKANSAS

Ar kansas

PRESS

Publisher Weekly

Vol. 14 | No. 15 | Thursday, April 11, 2019

ASSOCIATION

Serving Press and State Since 1873

Arkansas General Assembly wraps up 2019 session APA lauds student journalist, transparency bills; fights attacks on public notices

The Arkansas General Assembly expanded the rights of student journalists and increased public accessibility to government meetings in a productive legislative session for the newspaper industry. The Legislature concluded its business on Wednesday.

easier for court challenges on invasion of privacy and false light claims. The proposal, Senate Bill 230 by Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, stalled in Senate committee and was eventually withdrawn by the sponsor.

The newspaper industry’s victories included a compromise on legislation that would have allowed cities, counties and schools to publish construction bidding notices only on websites. The Arkansas Press Association and allies also turned back a proposal to weaken competitive bidding requirements for municipalities.

APA members had a substantial influence on other bills through their calls, emails and meetings with legislators. For example, two efforts to exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Act the names of winners of lottery jackpots were unsuccessful. This was largely due to strong pushback from organizations like the Arkansas Broadcasters Association and APA.

“We will remember the 92nd General Assembly as one in which the Arkansas Press Association and our supporters took a stand for transparency, for the rights of journalists and for ensuring that newspapers remain the primary vehicle for public notices,” said APA Executive Director Ashley Wimberley. “We greatly

appreciate the help of friends and supporters who worked with us to block or change bad legislation and who reached out to members of the Legislature to ensure our voices were heard.” Testimony from Christoph Keller and John Tull, attorneys for APA, and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Managing Editor David Bailey helped derail a bill that would have made it significantly

Wimberley said the association will begin developing immediately a plan for the 2021 session, based on trends and legislative feedback this year. The 2021 General Assembly will be particularly important for the industry. Trade associations like the Continued on Page 2

Legislature gives key victories to student journalists Student journalists at Arkansas’s public high schools, colleges and universities were big winners during this legislative session, as bills to enhance free-speech protections for student journalists were passed by the House and Senate.

It allows student journalists solely to select the news, editorial and advertising content of publications without fear of interference from school administrators. It also protects student media advisors from retaliation based on student speech.

Act 395 of 2019 was signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in March. Sponsored by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, the act extends to student journalists at highereducation institutions the protections of the Arkansas Student Publications Act.

Gov. Hutchinson told the Student Press Law Center after signing the act: “Freedom of the press is one of our foundational freedoms. Student journalists at colleges and universities have the same right to freely gather information as any other

journalist. The freedom of the press that our Constitution guarantees does not limit that freedom by age.” HB 1432 by Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-East End, improves the Arkansas Student Publications Act to ensure that the right of a student journalist at a high school is guaranteed by the First Amendment. It updates the Act, first enacted in 1995, to cover all student media rather than just publications. Mayberry’s original bill would have provided the same protection to high Continued on Page 3


Arkansas General Assembly wraps up 2019 session Continued from Page 1

Arkansas Municipal League, Arkansas Association of Counties and Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators are expected to ramp up efforts to remove public notices from newspapers. “While this year’s legislative session was a success, there are challenging times ahead for our industry and challenges to be expected at the Capitol in two years,” Wimberley said. “It’s exceedingly important that we are proactive over the next 20 months to demonstrate our industry’s value and commitment to Arkansas through the vital service we provide to its residents and to our nation’s democracy.” Here are updates on some key bills: SB 409 Following weeks of negotiations, the Senate and House both this week adopted Senate Bill 409. The legislation was amended to ensure Arkansas newspapers continue to publish public notice of government construction project bidding opportunities. Initially, the bill sponsored by Sen. Scott Flippo, R-Mountain Home, would have given cities, counties and schools the option of placing their public notices on a website. The original bill would have allowed the notices to appear on any website, and Flippo was joined in committee testimony by a Louisiana-based vendor who operates a bidding website.

entity chooses to supplement newspaper notice with website notice, it must notify the public through the newspaper for a minimum of five weeks. SB 409 also eliminates an option for entities to publish bid notices in construction trade journals instead of newspapers, which is current law. The bill now requires any notice of competitive bidding for a construction project by a city, county or school to be published for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper. In addition to publishing in a newspaper, entities may also publish the notice on one of three websites to be selected by the state if the entity first publishes notice in a newspaper for five weeks about its intent to do so. HB 1041 HB 1041 by Rep. Jack Ladyman, R-Jonesboro, never advanced past the Senate City, County and Local Affairs Committee, where it failed twice. The bill

would open the door to sweetheart deals with vendors at the local level. SB 230 SB 230, Sen. Hammer’s bill to make it easier to file and receive damages in invasion-of-privacy and defamation lawsuits, was withdrawn by the sponsor after it failed to advance out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill and an amended version were rejected twice by the committee. The original bill was filed in response to inaccurate reporting, Hammer said, citing the incident at the Lincoln Memorial between a Native American and high school students from Kentucky. The amended bill was more targeted at media outlets and would have lowered the bar for lawsuits if someone failed to retract and remove information if proven to be false or inaccurate. HB 1928 On the last day of the session, the Senate narrowly adopted HB 1928 by Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff. That bill, passed by an overwhelming margin in the House, requires audio recordings of most public meetings subject to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. The recordings must be available to the public under the law and must be kept for at least one year. HB 1928 was supported by the APA and the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act Task Force. It advanced to the governor for his signature.

The Arkansas House went into recess at about 1 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.

SB 409 failed to pass the Senate State Agencies Committee until it was changed to limit the number of websites where bid notices could be placed to just three, with an advisory committee established to monitor the process. Wimberley will be a member of the committee. The final version of the bill, ultimately adopted overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate, gives the entities the option of using a website to publish notice and receive electronic bid submissions, but only as a supplement to the traditional newspaper public notice. In addition, if an Arkansas Publisher Weekly

would have given Arkansas’s cities the ability to make any purchase less than $50,000 without competitive bidding and ease the manner in which cities could wave competitive bidding altogether. The current threshold is $20,000. The antitransparency bill narrowly passed the House in January, with supporters arguing it would make procurement more efficient and less expensive for cities. An amended version of the measure would have moved the threshold to $35,000, but APA and transparency advocates opposed the amendment as well over concerns that any increase in the bidding threshold 2

SB 464

SB 464, now Act 810 of 2019, prohibits the disclosure of any information related to the drugs used in Arkansas’s executions. The legislation backed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge sailed through the Legislature, despite testimony from the APA and from legal experts who argued the bill was unconstitutional. The act faces a likely court challenge. The act exempts from the Freedom of Information Act any information that would identify any entity or person involved in the Continued on Page 3

April 11, 2019


Arkansas General Assembly wraps up 2019 session Continued from Page 2

execution process or any information that discloses the manufacturer or dispenser of the lethal injection drug. Violation of the act is a Class D felony. HB 1382/SB 306 Bills in the House and in the Senate to restrict access to information about lottery winners each passed their respective chambers, but neither were passed in the other chamber by the time the session ended. HB 1382 by Rep. Jim Sorvillo, R-Maumelle, would have created a FOIA exemption to shield the identity of any winner of $500,000 or more. The secrecy provision in Sorvillo’s bill would not have applied to elected officials who were lottery winners. Only the IRS, Legislative Audit, the FBI and Arkansas State Police would be permitted to know the names of lottery jackpot winners.

under FOIA. The exemption would not have applied to elected officials or their immediate families. Under Teague’s bill, the FOIA exemption would have expired after two years. SB 231/SB 521 Sen. Hammer, the sponsor of both SB 231 and SB 521, withdrew both bills this

Both bills would have expanded the definition of public records under FOIA to include certain records of private entities that receive public funds. SB 231 was aimed at opening up the records of organizations like the Razorback and Red Wolves Foundations. Opponents worried that it was too expansive and it could have had an unintended consequence of restricting the definition of public record. HB 1417

SB 306, by Sen. Larry The Arkansas Senate went into recess just before noon on Wednesday. Teague, D-Nashville, would have given week after SB 231 failed to advance from winners of $500,000 or more the option the Senate State Agencies Committee to have their names kept confidential and SB 521 never received a hearing.

After sponsors of HB 1417 amended the bill to make it more palatable to the FOIA Task Force and the FOIA Coalition, the Legislature passed the measure intended to protect the identity of confidential informants in law enforcement investigations. The measure creates a FOIA exemption for the names or identifying information about informants if the release of the informant’s name could be expected to endanger the life or safety of the informant or his or her immediate family.

Legislature gives key victories to student journalists

Continued from Page 1

school media advisors as Act 395 offers to college advisors, but that provision was removed from the bill after opposition emerged from school superintendents. Mayberry’s bill was sent to the governor earlier this week for his signature. “With a broad coalition to support these efforts, our student journalists in Arkansas now can be more confident they can report the truth without fear of intimidation,” said Ashley Wimberley, executive director of the Arkansas Press Association. “These enhanced protections would not have been possible without the efforts of the higher education journalism community and the Society of Rep. Mark Lowery

Arkansas Publisher Weekly

Professional Journalists.” Wimberley specifically thanked Steven Listopad of Henderson State University, Jennifer Everett-Ellis, president of the Arkansas Pro Chapter of SPJ and Bruce Plopper, a former journalism professor, for their assistance. Another bill that would impact journalism in the classroom, HB 1015 by Rep. Mayberry, was blocked by the House Education Committee. That bill would have required public schools to offer journalism as part of its high school curriculum, as it had been for decades before the Arkansas Department of Education removed the requirement ahead of the 2018 school year. Opponents on the Education Committee expressed hesitance to reinstate the requirement, viewing it as an unfunded 3

and unnecessary mandate on local school districts. Mayberry said she is considering bringing back the bill for the 2021 session, especially if more schools drop journalism from their course offerings. “Obviously, we believe a journalism course in high school teaches students valuable skills that they wouldn’t receive anything else, and re-establishing that requirement is a priority for our association,” Wimberley said. “We will keep working with Rep. Mayberry to move forward with a plan to make sure all Arkansas students have an opportunity to learn our trade.

Rep. Julie Mayberry

April 11, 2019


Last chance to submit APA editorial contest entries With the deadline just a week away, Arkansas Press Association members are encouraged to submit their entries now for the 2019 APA Better Newspaper Editorial Contest. The deadline for entries is April 19. To enter, visit www.newspapercontest.com/ Contests/ArkansasPressAssociation. aspx. The annual competition for journalists, photographers, editors and page designers highlights the best work of APA member newspapers. The online entry form contains a full list of categories, all in five divisions: smaller weeklies, medium weeklies, larger weeklies, smaller dailies and larger dailies. The contest is open to employees of APA newspapers for work published between Jan. 1, 2018, and Jan. 31, 2018. Entries will be judged by a panel of out-of-statejournalists. For more information, contact Terri Cobb at (501) 374-1500 or terri@ arkansaspress.org.

Scholarship opportunities available

Two scholarship opportunities with pending deadlines are available to Arkansas students Arkansas Press Women will award a $1,000 scholarship this year to a college student who is majoring in journalism or a related communications field. Applicants of any gender who attend an Arkansas college or university may apply. An applicant must be entering her or his junior or senior year to be eligible. To download a scholarship application, visit https://arkpresswomen.wordpress. com/scholarship/. The deadline to apply for the scholarship is April 19. Preference will be given to a student with an overall grade point average of 3.25 or better who has published writing or broadcast samples. The scholarship is funded from the APW’s Maudine Sanders Education Fund. Maudine Saunders started her career in the newspaper industry as a bookkeeper at the Springdale Morning News. She became part owner of Springdale Publishing Company in 1955, and she and her husband sold that business to Donrey Media in 1973. Sanders was a longtime member and former president of

Arkansas Press Women.

Journalism students in Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Louisiana are eligible for the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ James Richard Bennett Scholarships. The scholarship is made possible by Dr. James Richard Bennett, professor emeritus of English at the University of Arkansas. Applications are due April 15 for the scholarship that covers an IRE membership and complimentary registration, lodging and travel expenses to the annual IRE conference in Houston in June. Applicants must provide their college transcript, resume or LinkedIn page, two clips demonstrating reporting skills and letter of support that shows why the student deserves a scholarship for IRE training. Visit ire.org for more information or to apply.

Advance-Monticellonian hires new reporter Monticello native Melissa Orrell has been named as a reporter for the AdvanceMonticellonian newspaper in Monticello. Orrell, a former Marine, was a journalist while serving in the Marine Corps. She was a staff reporter for the Tri-Command Tribune at Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina, and was a public affairs representative for the Air Station. She trained in print journalism, broadcasting and photojournalism at the Defense Information School in Fort Meade, Maryland. She is a graduate of Drew Central High School.

Industrial Quote of the Week “I can’t wait for the day when it is no longer newsworthy that a woman is appointed editor of a newspaper. ”

- Zanny Minton Beddoest Arkansas Publisher Weekly

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Orrell is currently attending the University of Arkansas at Monticello where she is pursuing a business administration and accounting degree. “My roots are here, and even during all my travels, ‘home’ has been Monticello,” she said in an article in the AdvanceMonticellonian. “I am so excited to be given this opportunity to serve each of you, the residents of Monticello and Drew County and all the other readers of the Advance-Monticellonian.”

Mark Your Calendar 2019 APA Convention June 26-29 Hotel Hot Springs

April 11, 2019


92nd Arkansas General Assembly

Legislative Report

APA is monitoring the following filed bills of interest to our industry and the public: Bill No. / Author

Short Description

APA Position

Current Status

HB 1003 Rep. Gazaway

An act to add anti-bullying measures at schools, to allow school boards to meet in executive sessions for bullying investigations

Opposes

Was not heard by House Education Committee

HB 1015 Rep. Mayberry

Requires journalism to be offered as an elective course in public high school

Supports

Failed in House Education Committee

HB 1041 Reps. Ladyman, Eads

Raises the threshold for municipalities to competitively bid projects from $20,000 to $50,000, thus abolishing public notice requirements for municipal expenses between $20,000 and $50,000

Opposes

Passed House; did not advance in Senate

HB 1382 Rep. Sorvillo

Exempts lottery winners’ identities from the Freedom of Information Act

Opposes

Passed House; did not advance in Senate

HB 1404 Rep. Speaks

Allows for publication of a school district’s budget in a newspaper published in or with a bona fide circulation in the county or counties where the school district is located

Neutral

Signed by governor as Act 828

HB 1417 Rep. Gray

Establishes a Freedom of Information Act exemption for the identities of confidential informants

Neutral

Passed House and Senate

HB 1432 Rep. Mayberry

Protects rights of high school student journalists and adds protections for student media advisors

Supports

Passed House and Senate

HB 1440 Rep. Ferguson

Establishes the Maternal Mortality Review Committee and exempts the committee from the Freedom of Information Act

Opposes

Signed by governor as Act 829

HB 1441 Rep. Bentley

Establishes the Maternal and Perinatal Outcomes Quality Review Committee and exempts the committee from the Freedom of Information Act

Opposes

Passed House and Senate

HB 1499 Rep. Maddox

Changes public notice requirements for statutory foreclosures

Neutral

Passed House; did not advance in Senate

HB 1557 Rep. House

Establishes a FOIA exemptions for security plans and assessments of medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation facilities and labs

Opposes

Passed House and Senate

HB 1630 Rep. Lundstrum

Gives active and retired law enforcement officers the ability to keep personal contact information and tax records secret under FOIA

Opposes

Passed House and Senate

HB 1702 Rep. Speakes

Permits a school district to publish notice of bond sales in a newspaper published in or with a bona fide circulation in the county or counties where the school district is located

Neutral

Signed by governor as Act 848

HB 1766 Rep. Collins

Increases the threshold amount for municipal sewer commission requirements for bidding from $20,000 to $35000 (companion bill SB516 in Senate is sponsored by Sen. Bond)

Opposes

Was not heard by House City, County and Local Affairs Committee

HB 1896 Rep. Mickey Gates

Changes public notice requirements for establishment of a municipal improvement district to require notice in a newspaper and on a website

Supports

Passed House and Senate

HB 1904 Rep. Della Rose

Calls for a study on the adequacy of public notice and public participation procedures for environmental permits

Neutral

Passed House; no action taken in Senate Public Health Welfare and Labor Committee

HB 1928 Rep. V. Flowers

Amends FOIA to require that all public meetings be audio recorded

Supports

Passed House and Senate

SB 3 Sen. Garner

Requires reporting from physicians and healthcare facilities requiring detailed information about abortion procedure complications and exempts the required report from the Freedom of Information Act.

Opposes

Signed by governor as Act 620

SB 230 Sen. Hammer

Creates a new civil action for invasion of privacy and allows a lawsuit against someone for intruding into private affairs or publicizing an individual in a false light

Opposes

Withdrawn by sponsor

Arkansas Publisher Weekly

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April 11, 2019


92nd Arkansas General Assembly

Legislative Report

APA is monitoring the following filed bills of interest to our industry and the public: Bill No. / Author

Short Description

APA Position

Current Status

SB 231 Sen. Hammer

Expands the definition of “public records” in the Freedom of Information Act to include records of a private entity that spends a minimum of 20% of its time, resources and efforts supporting a government function

Opposes

Withdrawn by sponsor

SB 277 Sen. Hill, Rep. Cameron Cooper

Removes public notice requirement for internet sale of certain surplus county property

Opposes

Passed House and Senate

SB 306 Sen. Teague

Allows the winner of a Powerball or Mega Millions drawing to make his or her records with the Arkansas Lottery Commission confidential under the Freedom of Information Act

Neutral

Passed Senate; did not advance in House

SB 409 Sen. Flippo

Gives cities, counties and schools an option to place bids on websites in addition to a newspaper

Supports

Passed House and Senate

SB 411 Sen. Stubblefield

Exempts from disclosure any investigations or reports related to whether a municipality is a sanctuary city; prohibits sanctuary city policies

Opposes

Passed House and Senate

SB 441 Sen. Bledsoe

Restricts certain medical marijuana advertising

Neutral

Passed House and Senate

SB 464 Sen. Hester

Exempts from disclosure under FOIA almost all information regarding lethal injection procedures; makes “reckless” release of information a Class D felony

Opposes

Signed by governor as Act 810

SB 521 Sen. Hammer

Expands the definition of public records in the Freedom of Information Act; protects identity of donors to private foundations

Opposes

Withdrawn by sponsor

SB 550 Sen. Stubblefield

Changes notice requirements for liquid livestock waste permits

Opposes

Passed Senate; moved to interim study

SB 560 Sen. Blake Johnson

Creates a Tax Appeals Commission but allows the commission to meet in closed session in some circumstances

Opposes

Referred to interim study

SB 681 Sen. Elliott

Requires charter schools and private schools htat receive state funding to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act

Pending

Was not heard by Senate Education Committee

Arkansas Publisher Weekly

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April 11, 2019

Profile for Arkansas Press Association

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: April 11, 2019  

The Arkansas Publisher Weekly is the only direct source for late-breaking news regarding Arkansas' newspapers and related industries. Publis...

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: April 11, 2019  

The Arkansas Publisher Weekly is the only direct source for late-breaking news regarding Arkansas' newspapers and related industries. Publis...