Arkansas General Assembly considers bill barring state agencies from imposing donor disclosure requirements on nonprofits
Earlier this month, the Arkansas Senate approved a bill that would bar state agencies and officials from imposing disclosure requirements on nonprofits that are “more stringent, restrictive, or expansive” than those already in force. It would also bar state and local public agencies from requiring, requesting, or disclosing information about a nonprofit’s donors. The bill is currently pending in the Arkansas House of Representatives.
What the bill would do
SB535 would bar state agencies and officials from imposing annual filing or reporting requirements on nonprofits that are “more stringent, restrictive, or expansive than the requirements authorized by state statute,” except as required or authorized by federal law. This provision would not apply to:
- State grants and contracts
- Fraud investigations
- “Regulation or licensing of entities by the Department of Human Services”
- “Regulation or licensing by the Department of Labor and Licensing”
The bill would also prohibit public agencies (defined as state and local government entities) from:
- Requiring a person to provide a public agency with personal information (defined as a “list, record, register, registry, roll, roster, or other compilation of data that identifies a person as a member, supporter, volunteer of, or donor of financial or nonfinancial support to” a tax-exempt nonprofit).
- Requiring a nonprofit to provide a public agency with personal information.
- Releasing, publishing, or otherwise disclosing any personal information a public agency already has.
- Requesting or requiring a current or prospective contractor to provide a public agency with information about the contractor’s financial or nonfinancial support of a nonprofit.
These provisions would not apply to the disclosure of personal information:
- “Required under a specific requirement relating to reporting campaign contributions, campaign expenditures, lobbying disclosures, or lobbying expenditures.”
- As part of a public comment in a public meeting or “in another manner that is publicly accessible.”
- In accordance with a warrant or court order.
- Used in a legal proceeding.
- Used by the Department of Finance and Administration for the “administration of tax or motor vehicle laws.”
- Used by any public agency “with oversight function over a government program for the purpose of an audit specific to the grant program,” provided that the “information accessed is limited to information related to the public agency grant program or grant program funds.”
- Used by the State Securities Department for administration of the Arkansas Securities Act.
State Sen. Breanne Davis (R) and Reps. David Ray (R) and Austin McCollum (R) introduced SB535 in the Senate on March 15. The Senate approved the original version of the bill 29-1 on April 7 (Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D) cast the lone dissenting vote).
The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee recommended the House approve an amended version of the bill. The House has not yet taken a final vote on the bill.
The original version of the bill was substantively similar to the current version. The two differ primarily in the types of exceptions they make. For example, both versions bar state agencies and officials from imposing annual filing or reporting requirements on nonprofits that are “more stringent, restrictive, or expansive” than those already authorized by statute. The original version of the bill specifies that this provision does not apply “to state grants and contracts, fraud investigations, and shall not restrict enforcement actions against specific nonprofit organizations.” The current version strikes the last of these three, replacing it with several specific exempt regulatory actions (e.g., “regulation or licensing of entities by the Department of Human Services”).
Political context: Arkansas is a Republican trifecta, meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Arkansas has been a Republican trifecta since 2015.
What other states are doing
State lawmakers in Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming are considering similar legislation this year. Five of these states are Republican trifectas (the sixth, North Carolina, has a divided government, with a Democratic governor and Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature).
South Dakota, a Republican trifecta, was the first state to enact similar legislation this year.
The big picture
Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 38 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.
Number of relevant bills by current legislative status:
Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s):
Recent legislative actions
For complete information on all of the bills we are tracking, click here.
- Arkansas SB535: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
- Republican sponsorship.
- Amendment read and adopted in the House on April 15.
- California AB236: This bill would require campaign finance committees to report the name of “each individual who owns or controls, or controls the contributions and expenditures of, a limited liability company or a foreign limited liability company from which the committee received a campaign contribution.”
- Democratic sponsorship.
- The Assembly Elections Committee reported the bill favorably and sent it back to the Assembly Appropriations Committee on April 15.
- Idaho H0245: This bill would prohibit foreign contributions, independent expenditures, and electioneering in Idaho election campaigns.
- Sponsorship not specified.
- Signed into law on April 16.
- Iowa HF309: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
- Sponsorship not specified.
- The Senate approved the bill on April 13.
- Maine LD1284: This bill would repeal a law requiring that independently financed communications include a statement listing the top three funders of the entity paying for the communications. It would also specify that only party committees and political action committees, and not individuals, are required to file reports of independent expenditures aggregating in excess of $250 during any one candidate’s election.
- Republican sponsorship.
- Tabled at a work session on April 14.
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