Attorney General meets with Montgomery County officials

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    DEWAYNE HOLLOWAY | Montgomery County News Kenn Greene listens as Attorney General Leslie Rutledge answers a question Thursday at the Mount Ida Civic Center. She spent an hour talking to area office holders and business owners about the concerns facing Montgomery County.

    MOUNT IDA – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge met with business leaders and local government officials Thursday, August 6, in a round table format to discuss what her office does and to take questions regarding the needs of Montgomery County.
    Local leaders in attendance included County Judge Sammy Jones, Mount Ida Mayor Jo Childress and Montgomery County Sheriff David White. There were also members of the Greater Mount Ida Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, school administrations and volunteer fire departments.
    Rutledge opened the meeting by explaining some of the services her office provides the state.
    The Attorney General’s office is the chief legal council for the state of Arkansas. As such, her office handles any lawsuits filed against the state, or a state agency. She is also responsible for entering into lawsuits on behalf of the state. One such recent example is a lawsuit she has joined to stop President Obama’s recent proposed changes to EPA regulations.
    They also handle appeals filed in the state of Arkansas and they head up a medical fraud unit.
    They have a very active cybercrimes unit and they have recently commissioned a metal theft prevention program.
    Her office also provides legal opinions for issues that arise within the state and they approve ballot titles for items to appear on the state’s ballot.
    One of the most important things her office does is public protection. She stated that her office fields over 7,000 complaints a year.
    She opened the floor for questions and Sheriff David White was the first to raise a concern.
    His concern was in regard to the conviction of parents who give birth to infants who are addicted to methamphetamine when they are born. He stated that many are arrested, but not all the convictions are upheld. The Sheriff went on to state that the state was in the grips of a methamphetamine epidemic.
    “It’s 60-70 percent worse than it was when I got into law enforcement in the 90’s.” he stated.
    Rutledge stated that she knew that her office had recently fought to uphold a conviction regarding a mother who had given birth to an addicted infant. She agreed that methamphetamine is an epidemic and commented that she and Governor Asa Hutchinson was in agreement that the state needed to make sure the right people were going to jail and others got help when needed. She added that she felt treatment was the key to overcoming the methamphetamine epidemic in Arkansas.
    Sheriff White disagreed and stated that the only solution is more bed space.
    Attorney Robin Smith discussed the possibility of getting arrest records sealed. She stated that she helps clients seal convictions, but some are struggling to get jobs because of an arrest record that may not ended in a conviction.
    Rutledge stated that this issue sounds like one that should be handled legislatively.
    Montgomery County Assessor Tammy McCarter asked the Attorney General about whether fire dues are mandatory, or voluntary. The question was in regards to the addition of the Sims Volunteer Fire Department fire dues to the personal property tax statement per Act 693.
    McCarter told Rutledge that she had an opinion from the attorney for the Arkansas Association of Counties that stated they were to be treated as if they are mandatory, but she wanted an opinion from the Attorney General’s office.
    The question as to whether Act 693 could require the quorum court to approve it was also raised.
    Rutledge instructed McCarter to contact her local representative and ask him to request an opinion.
    Bill Barnes, owner of Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa, talked about the affects the new EPA regulations regarding the increase in ethanol in fuel would have on his business and others like his. He explained that his business uses a lot of equipments that use small engines. The smaller engines don’t run well on fuel mixed with ethanol. He asked if the ethanol issue was a part of the lawsuit she had entered into against the EPA.
    Rutledge stated that her main focus has been on pushing back against the new regulations to be imposed on coal burning electrical plants. She said she would look into the ethanol issue.
    Chris Ray, Owner of Action Realty and a local farmer, asked about the affects the Clean Water Act might have on Arkansas. He stated that he didn’t want the EPA telling him that he doesn’t have jurisdiction over his own stream.
    Barnes added that Lake Ouachita is a huge part of the counties industry and changes to the way the water can be used could be devestating.
    To find out more about the Attorney General’s office, or to read opinions offered visit http://www.ag.arkansas.gov/