In the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing interviews with newly elected legislators. We’ll ask them to opine on policies and priorities for the upcoming legislative session. Today’s interview is with State Rep.-elect Bruce Coleman, a Republican from Mountainburg.
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 we need to make it to where we’ve got a fair and balanced environment for people to work in.
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 we need to make the most minimal regulations that we can to make it possible for people to work and continue to educate people so we don’t have any health and safety issues in any of the professions.
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?
I’m not specifically familiar with this case. We need review and oversight of these issues. The regulations that we make we want to be minimal. We want to allow people to work as much as they can while also keeping health and safety in mind.
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?
That’s kind of one of those deals where the devil is in the details as to what the situation is. I think we don’t want to impose on people’s rights, but the way I understand it is a conviction is required before you forfeit the property. If there’s something there that I’m missing, that would be something I’d say we need to look at.
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?
I don’t think carrying the cash is concrete evidence. I think it may raise some suspicions. I’d say that someone with $20,000 that raises some questions that should be answerable. I wouldn’t think that if a police officer was aware that someone was carrying $20,000 in cash…there was some other suspicious activities that caused them to even be aware that they were doing it. Having that much money is not evidence of a crime.
In your opinion, what will happen, if anything, legislatively with “Arkansas Works” Medicaid expansion in 2017? What are you personal views on how Medicaid expansion is currently working in Arkansas?
I think “Arkansas Works” is basically Arkansas’s answer to the Affordable Care Act. I think the future of “Arkansas Works” is going to depend on what happens at the federal level. I think the Legislature should work to do what’s best for Arkansas under the federal mandates and guidelines that the federal government put down. We’ve got to work within the things that they do and we’ve got to combine how we can make this work best for Arkansas.
Is it a legitimate tactic to vote against a DHS funding bill to force changes to “Arkansas Works”?
You don’t totally close stuff off, but you don’t use stuff like that on a regular basis. It’s kind of an interesting question and let’s just leave it there.
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?
Those need to be continually reviewed. I think there’s probably more out there that could be consolidated. If it doesn’t have an effect on health and safety, I think the more government can stay out of individual’s businesses and rights…the better off we are.
What bills or measures are you personally planning to sponsor this session?
I do not have an agenda on specific bills or measures. There are some that I have an interest in and I’ll probably visit with other people and get their input, but I don’t have specific items to file right now. I’ll be working with the resources in my district as much as I can and the things that affect them. I’ll certainly give them due consideration and try to do the things that work best for the district I represent as well as for the state.