Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel speaks to a group gathered at the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club meeting Thursday at the Pine Bluff Country Club. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Thursday that new state laws regarding the purchase of pseudoephedrine has resulted in the “lowest methamphetamine lab seizures since they started keeping records.”
Speaking to the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club, McDaniel said the law requires purchasers to swipe their drivers license to get pseudoephedrine and estimates are that the program has “stopped more than 126,000 illegal purchases of pseudo-ephedrine.” McDaniel said the program has become a national model for other states.
“We’re also trying to stay ahead of what’s next and that’s synthetic drugs,” McDaniel said. “Arkansas has already outlawed some of them before other states even knew there was a problem.”
As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, McDaniel, who is in his second term and has announced plans to run for governor in 2014, also talked about the Cybercrimes Unit located within his office, saying it was one of only 20 operated by attorneys general in the United States and focuses on Internet crimes against children.
“Every day, people go on the Internet and trade images that are of violent sexual assaults against children,” McDaniel said. “We’ve got a new enemy and so far, we’ve got convictions that have resulted in 250 years of prison sentences and we’re just getting started.”
In addition to the law enforcement aspect of his job, McDaniel also talked about the role his office plays in consumer protection, particularly its, “We’ve got your back, Arkansas,” website, www.gotyourbackarkansas.org, where his office helps people address their consumer complaints.
“What we’re doing is cutting-edge stuff,” he said.
In particular, McDaniel mentioned shutting down payday lenders, who were charging as much as 900 percent interest on loans.
“People were taking out payday loans to pay off another payday loan,” McDaniel said. “Payday lenders are no longer operating in Arkansas and they’re not coming back.”
Even though the payday lenders are not operating in the state anymore, McDaniel said a new threat has emerged because of people who can go online to arrange loans, which he described as “one more trap for consumers.”
He said in 2011, 161 consumers from Pine Bluff and Jefferson County contacted his office with consumer complaints and the office was able to recover $18,500 without lawsuits.
“Now I know there were more than 161 people in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County who needed us and didn’t call,” McDaniel said. “If you need us, call. We treat our 3 million customers (the state’s population) like customers. You’ve got a lawyer to back you and that’s the attorney general.”
On the subject of education, McDaniel said the 2013 legislative session that begins in January will be challenging because of the number of new legislators who will take office because of term limits forcing more seasoned legislators to retire.
“I’m impressed with the new legislators, both Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “The methods may be different but they want to do the right things.”
McDaniel said his office will ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to reconsider a recent ruling dealing with school funding or at least to interpret the ruling so that the legislature can deal with it.
“Arkansas’ best days are yet to come,” he said.