Favorite

You want tort reform? Try this. 

The nursing home industry and the chamber of commerce finally defeated the trial lawyers in the 2017 legislature. The Republican-dominated body approved a constitutional amendment for voters in 2018 that they'll depict as close to motherhood in goodness.

If approved, they'll tell you, greedy lawyers will still be able to dream up nuisance suits against saintly doctors and pristine nursing homes, but their contingency fees will be limited and strict caps will be placed on both punitive and "non-economic" damages. Non-economic damage? That's pain and suffering, even death. Children and the elderly who can prove no loss of income from neglect and abuse are entitled to little for their torment because, really, what are they worth?

The trial lawyers will spend plenty to stop what amounts to stripping the Arkansas Constitution of the right to a jury trial for damages. But perverse Arkansas — though no home to runaway juries or financially strained nursing home owners or doctors — is inclined to buy propositions that the chamber of commerce declares good for business. (If being hospitable to business and inhospitable to workers was a ticket to economic Glory Land, Arkansas would be Silicon Valley, the Research Triangle and the Johnson Space Center rolled into one.) Alas, you know the reality.

But some hope emerged this week. The Arkansas Bar Association is working on a constitutional amendment. It doesn't have endorsement of its governing body yet. But it would force the nursing home titans and chamber executives to double their spending to pass one amendment and beat another. The bar amendment does more than nullify the damage limits proposed by the legislature.

The marquee provision would shine light on "dark money," undisclosed independent spending in political races that played an enormous factor in recent races for Supreme Court and attorney general. Contributors would be disclosed and, in the case of judicial races, held to normal campaign spending limits.

The amendment also would finally end legislative pork barreling, in which legislators defy the constitution and divvy up state surplus for personal projects. The practice has turned felonious at times. Some recent legislative mug shots taken following bribery arrests could serve as campaign material.

The amendment also would restore balance of power. The courts would continue to be responsible for court rules, if not substantive law. The legislature could override a gubernatorial veto, but only with a two-thirds vote, not a simple majority. The amendment would overturn a legislative initiative that put control of executive agency rules in the hands of a legislative committee.

The legislature tried to discourage such popular initiatives with a punishing new law for people who pay to gather signatures on amendment petitions. The bar association hopes to rely on volunteer labor and thus avoid the new rules on paid canvassing. It hopes, too, that the resistance movement born in President Trump's election will respond to a measure that's about ethics, good government and the welfare of the young and infirm. We're a Trump state, true, but there's a historic strain of populism here; 85,000 valid signatures by July 2018 would give voters a chance to demonstrate it.

UNRELATED SUBJECT: Brett Williamson, a hired hand for the Murphy Oil fortune, gave a poor illustration of public service last week. Four Little Rock School District supporters used the state Board of Education's public comment period to make a heartfelt plea that the board return the district to local control. Board member Williamson's response:

"With all due respect, I'm tired of hearing about the Little Rock School District. I've had it, OK? "

Solutions for Williamson: 1) Give Little Rock its school board back and 2) resign from the state Board of Education.

Favorite

Speaking of Tort Reform, Arkansas Bar Association

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Targeting teachers

    The Hutchinson administration has riled the teachers union in the Little Rock School District.
    • Aug 16, 2018
  • Clarke Tucker challenges French Hill to series of debates

    Clarke Tucker, the Democratic candidate for 2nd District Congress, has called on Republican incumbent Rep. French Hill to reconsider his refusal to participate in a televised debate in September and to join him for a series of three debates.
    • Aug 15, 2018
  • Abduction suspect arrested during threatened jump from bridge

    Danny Trent Barrows, 38, wanted for abducting his child earlier in the week, was arrested Wednesday as he attempted to jump off an Interstate 49 bridge near Mountainburg.
    • Aug 15, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Targeting teachers

    The Hutchinson administration has riled the teachers union in the Little Rock School District.
    • Aug 16, 2018
  • People vs. corporations

    Signature counting and legal challenges aren't done, but the November ballot is shaping up as a rich opportunity to side with your choice of people or corporations.
    • Aug 9, 2018
  • Imagine if we had LeBron

    Basketball star LeBron James, in partnership with the Akron public school district, opened an I Promise school for third and fourth graders this week to serve at-risk kids such as he once was.
    • Aug 2, 2018
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • Politics and the court

    When they say that confirming a Supreme Court justice is about the Constitution, they mean it's about politics. It's always about politics, at least in the modern era.
  • Having the abortion conversation

    One potential game-changer on attitudes regarding abortion is a clear change in its legal status.
  • Targeting teachers

    The Hutchinson administration has riled the teachers union in the Little Rock School District.
  • Ad hominem

    Everybody's favorite logical fallacy these days seems to be the argumentum ad hominem. That's where you make a personal attack on somebody's presumed motives instead of engaging the substance of what they've said. Sad to say, it's as prevalent on the political left as the right.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: People vs. corporations

    • Voting for the minimum wage is not an example of doing something "for the people."…

    • on August 15, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation