Today’s interview is with State Rep.-elect Carlton Wing, a Republican from North Little Rock. Go here for our other recent interviews previewing the 2017 legislative session with new legislators.
Some people argue that Arkansas’s civil justice system needs to be changed via tort reform. Speaking concretely, in your opinion what needs to be changed in our civil justice system?
I think the core issue is the frivolous lawsuits. Frivolous lawsuits are a drain on the economy. At best, they take up resources and time from our businesses. At worst, it can really alter the outcome of a profitable business. If there’s a legitimate breach of justice and someone needs redress through our court system…that’s what it’s there for. It’s a vital part of our society, but the frivolous lawsuits can be such a drain. When someone exploits our justice system for personal gain, that’s the wrong thing to do. It makes a mockery of our justice system. That’s kind of the core issue and tort reform can get the justice system centered around legitimate complaints of right and wrong.
Arkansas is near the top of the list when it comes to the number of professions that state government requires licensure of. Is this a problem? What should be done to address this?
I think it’s absolutely a problem. A lot of our neighboring states and states across the country have already addressed this. Just by inaction, we fall behind. When you’ve got needless hurdles that prohibit business from wanting to come here, that hurts all of us. That hurts people who are needing jobs and hurts our quality of life. We definitely need to address this in a way that is immediate and quick.
Under a Supreme Court decision from last year, Dental Examiners, state boards and commissions which produce anti-competitive regulations could easily get sued, lose, and end up costing state taxpayers triple damages. If legislators issue those regulations through legislation, in contrast, there is no lawsuit vulnerability. Are you familiar with this issue? Does this decision suggest that legislators should have to expressly approve and write regulations into law as a general matter? Or do you have any other thoughts on how to address this problem?
Two things could happen. You could make sure your board members were not active participants in the marketplace that they were controlling or the Legislature could issue the regulations that go along with the laws. That would seem on the onset to make sense that legislators could make sure that the intent of the regulation is followed and the regulations that come along with it. My initial reaction is the people would want the intent of the laws written into the regulations of those laws so that things don’t get twisted as can often happen.
Several states have recently passed reforms that require a criminal conviction in order for civil forfeiture of property to proceed. Do you think this would be a good step for Arkansas to take?
It sure seems that way. You’ve got a situation where due process can easily be thwarted with civil forfeiture. Liberty and individual rights are a couple of the key components that are a part of the founding of this country. Civil forfeiture is one of those areas where our individual liberties and individual rights can be abused. I don’t know how often it happens, but if it can be that way then we need to be able to fix that problem.
Relatedly, a notorious civil forfeiture case in Arkansas had the following facts: the officer who seized a large sum of cash (roughly $20,000) told the money carrier that nobody carries such sizable amounts of cash except for those who deal drugs and deliver drugs. Do you agree that carrying such large amounts of cash is, as such, evidence of illegal activity?
When I was growing up in high school and junior high school, my parents told me that anything that happens out in the city after 10 p.m. is probably not good. Now that doesn’t mean everyone who’s out after 10 p.m. is doing something illegal but the probability goes up. I’m sure, given the full benefit of the doubt, an officer that comes across somebody who has got $20,000 cash could probably rightly assume that there is a higher probability of something nefarious going on. I know if that person was caught in my neighborhood…I’d hope the officer would ask him a few more questions, but in and of itself, it’s not illegal to have $20,000 in cash on your person. That’s not against the law. Circumstantially, it can help you ask a few more questions but you can’t just arrest someone based on the fact that someone has $20,000 in cash on them.
In your opinion, what will happen, if anything, legislatively with “Arkansas Works” Medicaid expansion in 2017? What are your personal views on how Medicaid expansion is currently working in Arkansas? Is it a legitimate tactic to vote against a DHS funding bill to force changes to “Arkansas Works”?
I think most people are going to take a wait-and-see approach with what happens federally before anything gets addressed with “Arkansas Works” or anything we’re doing here locally. That’s probably the wisest tactic to take, because we need to see what’s going to happen with the Trump administration with regard to the Affordable Care Act before we do anything. That’s really the most wise and prudent thing…to see what happens federally before we do anything locally.
Is there anything that state government currently does programmatically that it should stop doing completely? For instance, are there any agencies or boards or commissions that should be eliminated?
I don’t know of any at this time. I think our biggest job as the caretakers of the purse strings of government is that every dollar spent goes to what it is appropriated to do by ensuring that there is no fraud and that it is going toward where the taxpayers expect it to go. Then look at how we can better spend those dollars and treat taxpayers’ money with the respect and reverence it deserves.
What bills or measures are you personally planning to sponsor this session?
I’m working on a couple things right now, but I don’t have the final draft on these bills yet. I’m all about economic development and creating a climate that’s positive for business, jobs and the families of Arkansas. I think the opportunities are vast.