A few questions for Kathy Webb, State Representative, District 37
HL: Why did you decide to run for the General Assembly?
KW: I ran for the legislator because I have always worked on public policy issues since I was a kid, and wanted the opportunity to impact public policy in a decision-making role.
HL: What is the one thing that surprised you the most after being elected?
KW: The thing I least expected was forging strong friendships with people who hold strong beliefs that are quite different from mine. There is a freshman Republican representative with whom I had dinner almost weekly during the session. I sat with a conservative NWA Republican in many committee hearings, and we became very fond of each other. The frank discussions we had with each other helped us both, I think, to defend our positions and to learn from the other’s position.
HL: What were some of bills you are most pleased to have worked on ?
KW: The first bill I sponsored was regarding Reading Services for the Blind. It will always be important because it was a bill my constituents brought to me, we got over 60 co-sponsors and it passed without a dissenting vote in the House and Senate. The Global Warming Commission is very important because it was probably the bill I sponsored that will have the biggest, long-term impact on Arkansas. It had over 50 co-sponsors and was passed with great bi-partisan support in both chambers. The Speaker appointed me to serve on the Commission, and I look forward to beginning work soon.
HL: What were some bills you were unable to get passed?
KW: The Styrofoam recycling bill passed the House, but failed in the Senate Public Health Committee. That was very disappointing because the program was not mandatory. The only county that is doing the Styrofoam recycling loves it and testified for the bill.
A second disappointment was the failure of the felony animal cruelty bill. Rep. Pam Adcock and Sen. Sue Madison were lead sponsors, and I was an active co-sponsor. I still hope that Arkansas will pass a felony bill next session.
A third disappointment was the failure of the teen driving restriction bill. There is such a huge body of evidence that shows driving restrictions for teens save lives, and the Illinois House passed a bill similar to our bill 167-0.
HL: Do you think the failure of any anti-gay legislation had anything to do with your presence in the legislature ?
KW: I think my colleagues could answer this question better than I. I certainly worked against SB 959, and believe it was a very bad bill. I do think some of my colleagues were not sure what to expect from me, but throughout the session, they saw that we were interested in the same issues-education, the environment, health care, budget and fiscal accountability, economic development, poverty issues, etc.
HL: What do you like most about being a legislator ?
KW: One of the best things has been during the interim regarding the issue of hunger. I have worked on this issue for many years, but it was very exciting to get the help of 22 of my colleagues, plus several of their family members, and take the Food Stamp Challenge. This Challenge really impacted them, and raised the awareness about hunger in Arkansas to an all time high level. At the end of the Challenge, we created a Legislative Hunger Caucus, to keep the issue on the front burner. To help make that happen is very exciting. A second thing I love is being able to talk to other policy makers and public service folks and have open discussions about solving problems. For about three hours the other night, I got to sit with a judge and another person who deals with drug issues in Arkansas. We brainstormed ideas about combating the drug problem in Arkansas. I could do stuff like that all day. I love public service and having the opportunity to represent our district.
HL: What do you like least?
KW: Having to run for re-election already is what I like least.
HL: Where do you see yourself politically in five years ?
KW: That’s a good question. My immediate plans are to work really hard on the issues of hunger and global warming, plus continue to focus on learning the budget. I love serving in the House, and hope that the voters of this district will send me back for two more terms.
HL: What is the most common request you get from constituents?
KW: During the sessions, I got many emails and phone calls every day requesting that I vote a certain way on a particular issue. Since the session ended, the most common constituent request I get is for help navigating the system, whether it is for child support, Medicaid, disability, or something else. Being able to help in this way is very gratifying.
HL: What is the strangest request you have had?
KW: The most interesting request came during the session when a constituent called and asked me if I could go pick him up and take him somewhere, since his car was broken.
HL: You look a lot like my favorite high school history teacher. Why is that ?
( I already knew the answer to this one, she is my former teacher’s sister )
My next online “interview” will be with Circuit Clerk Pat O’Brien. If you have any suggestions for someone to interview or have questions you would like me to ask of an Arkansas politician – just drop me a line.
Hoglawyer at gmail dot com