Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

“I believe that all elected officials should—as I have always endeavored to do—act with the interests of our citizens in mind.”

—State Rep. Chris Broadwater (R-Hammond), vice chairman of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee and former director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation, defending his work as attorney for insurance companies seeking to deny or reduce workers’ compensation claims and his admitted practice of routinely consulting with his successor OWC Director Wes Hataway on pending matters before OWC that directly affect his clients.

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When Chris Broadwater the state legislator says he has never received compensation from a private source for the performance of his legislative duties, he is technically correct.

Broadwater the attorney, however, does represent insurance companies before a state agency he once ran and over which he still exercises control as Vice Chairman of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.

Taking that gray area of state ethics and moving into even murkier waters is the fact that Broadwater regularly consults with Wes Hataway, the current director of the Louisiana Office of Worker’s Compensation, the appointive position he himself once held before his election to the House of Representatives in 2011, on matters pending before the current director, Wes Hataway.

Broadwater (R-Hammond) resigned as Director of the Office of Workers’ Comp (OWC) in February 2011 to join a private law firm preparatory to running for state representative that same year and was succeeded by Hataway.

An ally of Gov. Bobby Jindal, Broadwater was immediately assigned to the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee where he was promptly named vice chairman.

Documents filed with the State Board of Ethics in December 2012 and April of this year indicate that Broadwater represents three companies, Qmedtrix at $275 an hour, the Louisiana Home Builders Association, and LUBA Worker’s Comp, both at $135 an hour, in defending worker’s compensation claims before the OWC.

Moreover, an application for supervisory writs filed with the Third Circuit Court of Appeal in Lake Charles in March of this year in the case of Christus Health Southwest Louisiana, dba Christus St. Patrick Hospital, v. Great American Insurance Co. of New York, revealed meetings between Broadwater, Qmedtrix and Hataway to discuss the disposition of numerous cases involving Qmedtrix, namely efforts to get the cases stayed and transferred to another judge.

That writ application concerns procedures and conversations that took place involving numerous pending workers’ compensation cases about which we will be writing in subsequent postings.

For the purposes of this post, however, we will be limiting the discussion to the activities of Broadwater as they pertain to his relationship with the current Director of OWC (the position he once held) and his serving as vice chairman of the legislative committee that oversees the functions of OWC.

Broadwater, when confronted with the reports of the meetings, admitted to meeting with Hataway in late November 2012 at which time the transfers were discussed, the court filing says.

“In what may be the pinnacle of irony, Mr. Broadwater actually disclosed this ex parte meeting on his state ethics disclosure form,” the writ application says.

It (the writ application) quoted Broadwater’s own comment from that disclosure form: “Met with Director of OWC discussing process of resolving disputes over medical billing.”

The document said Broadwater admitted to meeting with Hataway “three or four times in person” (always with a Qmedtrix attorney present) and speaking with him 10 or 15 times on the phone. “This ex parte contact (Latin legal term meaning for the benefit of one party) with the OWC director at the request of Qmedtrix” cost Qmedtrix $275 per hour for Mr. Broadwater’s services, it said. “This rate must have seemed reasonable to Qmedtrix especially once they learned Chris Broadwater was not only a longtime friend (20 years) of Director Hataway, but was actually Director Hataway’s boss when Chris Broadwater was OWC Director,” the writ application added.

Not only did Broadwater admit discussing with Hataway the pending appointment of his former law partner to succeed Judge Shelly Dick once Judge Dick was confirmed as U.S. District Court Judge, but he related in detail how Hataway sought his advice on whether or not Hataway had the power as director to issue a stay of pending cases without involving the judges to whom the cases were assigned. Broadwater was of the opinion that Hataway did have such authority.

At the time Broadwater was hired by Qmedtrix, he “was well aware that Qmedtrix was involved in numerous workers’ compensation claims pending in the various OWC districts challenging its payment recommendations to the hospitals and ambulatory surgery center,” the writ application says.

“There is absolutely no question that Chris Broadwater was well aware that his client Qmedtrix was heavily involved in the ‘usual and customary’ litigation in front of the OWC at the time these ex parte discussions took place,” the court document said.

Broadwater even admitted as much when he was asked in deposition if he understood when he spoke with Hataway that Qmedtrix “was heavily involved in litigation in Louisiana workers’ compensation courts at the time.”

“Sure,” responded Broadwater to that question.

In addition to Qmedtrix, Broadwater also represented LUBA, the writ application says, “and, in fact, helped (former law partner) Amanda Clark secure LUBA as her client as well.

Broadwater, in a two-page letter to LouisianaVoice, said he approaches his duties as an attorney and as a legislator “with humbleness and with the highest sense of honor and ethical behavior. I believe that all elected officials should…act with the interests of our citizens in mind,” he said.

He said his representation of clients is governed by state statute which “prohibits me from receiving compensation from a source other than the legislature for performing my public duties, from receiving finder’s fees, from being paid by a private source for services related to the legislature or which draws substantially upon official data not a part of the public domain.”

He said he has provided legal counsel to clients before agencies, other than the legislature “and have disclosed such representation as required by law. At no time have I been offered, nor have I ever accepted payment from a private source for the performance of my legislative duties,” he said.

“My service as vice chair of the Labor & Industrial Relations Committee in no manner alters my duties or the constraints placed upon me under the Code of Governmental Ethics.

“If one assumed your interpretation to be correct—that service on a committee to which matters of the law related to one’s private employment are considered—it would likewise be improper for attorneys to serve on the Civil Law Committee, attorneys to serve on the Judiciary Committee, attorneys to serve on the Criminal Justice Committee, pharmacists to serve on the Health and Welfare Committee, business owners to serve on the Commerce Committee, farmers to serve on the Agriculture Committee, insurance agents to serve on the Insurance Committee, accountants to serve on the Ways and Means Committee, or attorneys to serve in the legislature in general as the legislature passes laws that inevitably will be later interpreted and applied in our private legal practice. I do not believe that such an outcome is required by the law, nor do I believe it would be wise policy to prohibit individuals to participate in government and share their area of expertise as policy is developed.

“I believe that my colleagues and I take our oath seriously and, should an issue arise that directly relates to an issue with which we are personally involved, we appropriately recuse ourselves from any such vote.”

While that was certainly better than a “no comment,” it still does not address the issue of his meeting with the OWC director to discuss pending cases that might affect his clients or to give advice to his successor on these cases.

Nor does it explain the likelihood that he would be hired to represent the three companies to fight for denials or reductions in workers’ comp medical payments were it not for his connections as both a legislator and as a former director of the Louisiana Office of Workers’ Compensation.

Just another sad example of how things are done in the administration that gave us the “gold standard” of governmental ethics.

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When the chips are down, you can generally count on your legislators, in the apparent belief that they represent a composite embodiment of a modern day Solomon, to make the absurd proposal to split the baby when it comes to doing the right thing.

While politics is still the art of compromise, they take it to the extreme and then never seem to understand why their action, instead of pleasing constituents, should only serve to generate pervasive anger as the appropriate response.

Case in point: Senate Bill 153 by Sen. Ed Murray of New Orleans. His bill would have helped close the gender pay gap for both public and private workers.

That certainly seems fair. If a computer is repaired, does it matter who fixed it? If a story appears in the paper, does it make any difference if it’s written by a man or woman? If a female bricklayer lays the same number of bricks in an hour as the man beside her, shouldn’t she receive the same pay considerations? The same should apply to truck drivers, sales personnel, engineers, architects, and attorneys. A woman who performs the same job as a man certainly should receive the same pay, after all. Who could argue with that?

Apparently Sen. Patrick “Page” Cortez (R-Lafayette). For some unknown reason, Cortez decided to split the baby by offering an amendment to make Murray’s bill apply only to the public sector and not the private.

Why? What possible reason could there be for the legislature to sanction discrimination against private sector female employees?

Why is such blatant discrimination against women in the private sector allowed by our legislature? All hell should’ve broken loose on behalf of private sector female employees as it almost certainly would have—and justifiably so—if Cortez’s amendment had, for example, made the equal pay bill applicable only to whites to the exclusion of African Americans.

Gov. Bobby Jindal loves to travel across the country with his message of how wonderful things are in Louisiana since he became governor. But you never hear a peep out of him about how Louisiana is tied for the second widest disparity in pay between men and women, according to figures released by the National Women’s Law Center.

Wyoming is the worst in the nation. There, women make 67 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts. Louisiana is not far behind. We are tied with Utah for the second widest disparity, with female employees making 69 cents for every dollar a man makes. If you are Sen. Gomez, you’d say she makes only 31 percent less than the male but if you’re a woman, he makes 44.9 percent more.

Even Mississippi and Alabama, where women are paid 74 cents per dollar made by men, rank ahead of Louisiana. South Carolina? Seventy-six cents. Arkansas and Texas? Eighty-two cents—18.8 percent higher than Louisiana.


While the disparity is worse in Wyoming, Louisiana and Utah, the difference is evident throughout the country. In California, for example, Women are paid roughly 85 percent of a man’s salary for the same job. The difference is the same for Nevada and Arizona.

The District of Columbia has the narrowest gap, with women making 90.4 cents per each dollar made by men in the same job.

Murray’s bill failed to get the necessary 20 votes the first time around on May 15 but it passed on May 22 after five senators—Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge), Cortez, A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell), Elbert Guillory (D-turned R, Opelousas), and Neil Riser (R-Columbia)—changed their votes from the previous week after Cortez’s amendment passed, 24-11.

Four of the five voted no on May 15. Guillory, the lone exception, was absent on the first vote.

Understandably, some senators like Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb (D-Baton Rouge), Troy Brown (D-Napoleonville), Norbért Chabert (R-Houma), Eric Lafleur (D-Ville Platte), and Sherri Smith Buffington (R-Keithville) voted in favor of Cortez’s amendment because it was the only way to get even the gutted version of the bill passed. Each of those voted in favor of the original bill, the subsequent amendment and for final passage.

Senators who displayed their disdain for women in general and private sector women in particular by voting against final passage included:

• Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego);

• Robert Adley (R-Benton);

• R.L. “Bret” Allain (R-Franklin);

• Conrad Appel (R-Metairie);

• Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville);

• Dale Erdy (R-Livingston);

• Ronny John (R-Lake Charles);

• Gerald Long (R-Natchitoches);

• Dan Morrish (R-Jennings);

• Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City);

• Jonathan Perry (R-Kaplan);

• Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe);

• Mack “Bodi” White (R-Central).

Those who took a hike and did not vote were:

• Daniel Martiny (R-Metairie);

• Gary Smith (D-Norco);

• John Smith (R-Leesville).

House members voting against the bill included:

• Richard Burford (R-Stonewall);

• Gordon Dove (R-Houma);

• Lance Harris (R-Alexandria);

• Joe Harrison (R-Gray);

• Paul Hollis (R-Covington);

• John “Jay” Morris (R-Monroe);

• James “Jim” Morris (R-Oil City);

• Stephen Pugh (R-Ponchatoula);

• Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport);

• Scott Simon (R-Abita Springs);

• Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge);

• Jeff Thompson (R-Bossier City).

Staying home and not voting were:

• Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans);

• Greg Cromer (R-Slidell);

• Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro);

• Kenny Havard (R-Jackson);

• Bob Hensgens (R-Abbeville);

• Valerie Hodges (R-Denham Springs);

• Walt Leger (D-New Orleans).

So much for the campaign rhetoric that these good and noble public servants want nothing more than to represent all the people of their districts.

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A week after the Dallas office of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) confirmed to LouisianaVoice that the state still had not answered questions about the proposed privatization of state hospitals, the Washington, D.C. office has weighed in with similar concerns in a letter to two state senators.

On Monday it was announced that Health facilities in Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles and New Orleans had been turned over to private operators as part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s drive to privatize the university-run hospitals and clinics.

A three-page letter from Cindy Mann, Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services (CMCS), to State Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) addressed seven questions posed by Nevers and State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) and the answers were no more encouraging to the Jindal administration than those of the Dallas office on June 12.

“In your letter, you raise questions concerning plans by the state to enter into public-private partnerships with Louisiana State University (LSU) and University Medical Center in Lafayette and LSU and Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, and questions related to the Affordable Care Act,” Mann wrote in her June 19 letter to Nevers.

The entire privatization deal would appear to revolve around the first question posed by Nevers: “Will CMS approve the large up-front lease payment arrangements as proposed in the attached public-private partnership lease agreements in Louisiana?”

“The Centers for (CMS) has concerns over the large up-front lease payments described in the Louisiana public-private partnership agreements,” Mann wrote.

A spokesperson for Mann’s office said nothing had changed since the June 19 letter.

“However, at this time, the state has not submitted state plan amendments (SPA) proposing to fund Medicaid payments through the agreements and CMS cannot offer formal determination as to whether the arrangements would conflict with the requirements described in (the Social Security Act,” Mann said. “Once the state submits the SPAs, CMS will request necessary supporting documentation and explanations from the state to demonstrate compliance with these provisions of the statute and regulations.”

Nearly 4,000 state employees were laid off because of the privatization of the facilities that care for the uninsured and which provide training for the state’s medical students.

Nevers, contacted in California where he was attending a conference, said he had never seen a situation where policies needing federal approval were undertaken and finalized before that approval was forthcoming. “It’s premature, to say the least, to do this without written approval in hand,” he said. “The private partners won’t stay in this deal if there are no payments and if CMS doesn’t approve the state’s plan, the whole thing falls apart.”

Nevers said his primary concern was continued health care delivery for the state’s poor. “In any business venture, you would not jeopardize services based on ‘maybes.’”

He said Jindal may well have more information than he has, “but the people who make the decisions do not have the information. Moving forward is something we should not be doing at this time.

“Neither should the LSU Board of Supervisors have agreed to a major contract for the transfer of the hospitals that contained 50 blank pages,” he said.

Mann, in her letter said that while the lease agreements themselves would not be subject to CMS approval, “to the extent that the lease agreements contain financing arrangements that are involved in the state’s funding of its Medicaid program, CMS will review the lease arrangements to insure compliance with federal Medicaid laws and regulations.”

She said any SPA request by the state to modify its Medicaid service payments will be reviewed by CMS to insure compliance with federal Medicaid laws and regulations. “This includes the source of non-federal funds used to fund the service payments,” she said.

Nevers, in his letter to Mann, asked if Louisiana were to expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) “are there any federal provisions that would prohibit Louisiana from withdrawing from such an expanded Medicaid program at any time, including after participating in the 100 percent federal funding available in 2014, 2015 and 2016?”

Mann responded in the affirmative: “A state may choose whether and when to expand, and if a state covers the expansion group, it may later decide to drop the coverage, without any federal penalty.”

The Louisiana Civil Service Commission approved the contracts for the takeover of four hospitals in Houma, Lafayette, New Orleans and Lake Charles on June 10 despite the lack of CMS approval of the state’s privatization plan.

Commission member Scott Hughes of Shreveport said the approval was based on the state budget approved by the legislature which he said assumed the privatization of the hospital. That action, he said, would leave no money available to operate the hospitals through LSU if the deals had been rejected.

While that is not among the criteria that the Civil Service Commission is supposed to consider when layoff plans are submitted by state agencies, it left unanswered the question of what will happen if CMS does not ultimately approve the state’s plan.

A CMS spokesperson in Dallas said on June 12 that CMS does not play any role in the actual privatization of the hospitals. “However, as part of the privatization, the State of Louisiana is modifying the Medicaid reimbursement to those hospitals. The change in reimbursement requires the submission of State Plan Amendments (SPA). CMS currently has received some of the necessary SPA and they are under review.”

Last Jan. 30, Bill Brooks, associate regional administrator for the CMS Division of Medicaid and Children’s Health Operations in Dallas, sent a six-page letter to Ruth Kennedy, director of the Bureau of Health Services Financing for the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) in which he requested additional clarifying information which he cautioned had the effect of “stopping the 90-day clock” for CMS to take action on the proposed SPA which “proposed to revise the reimbursement methodology for inpatient hospital services to establish supplemental Medicaid payments to non-state-owned hospitals in order to encourage them to take over the operation and management of state-owned and operated hospitals that have terminated or reduced services.”

He said a new 90-day clock would not begin until his office had received satisfactory responses to his requests.

One of the requirements that Brooks cited was one which said CMS “must have copies of all signed standard Cooperative Endeavor Agreements.” He also asked the state to provide all Intergovernmental Transfer (IGT) management agreements and “any other agreements that would present the possibility of a transfer of value between the two entities.”

He said, “CMS has concerns that such financial arrangements meet the definition of non-bona fide provider donations as described in federal statute and regulations.

“Detailed information needs to be provided to determine whether the dollar value of the contracts between private and public entities had any fair market valuation. There can be no transfer of value or a return or reduction of payments reflected in these agreements,” he said.

“Additionally, whether the State is a party to the financial arrangement or not, the State is ultimately responsible to ensure that the funding is appropriate.”

Brooks asked, “How many entities does the State anticipate will participate in this arrangement? Please submit a list of all participating hospitals, all transferring entities doing the IGT, and the dollar amount that the transferring entities will IGT. Please describe how the hospitals are related/affiliated to the transferring entity and provide the names of all owners of the participating hospitals.”

In the case of the Leonard Chabert Medical Center in Houma, the lessee is listed as Terrebonne Medical Center of Houma but in reality, Ochsner Medical Center of New Orleans will be taking over operations of Leonard Chabert.

“What is the source of all funds that will be transferred?” Brooks asked. “Are they from tax assessments, special appropriations from the State to the county (parish)/city or some other source?

“The State plan methodology must be comprehensive enough to determine the required level of payment and the Federal Financial Participation (FFP) to allow interested parties to understand the rate setting process and the items and services that are paid through these rates,” Brooks said. “Claims for federal matching funds cannot be based upon estimates or projections. Please add language that describes the actual historical utilization and trend factors utilized in the calculation,” he said.

Brooks also asked if the private hospitals destined to take over operations of the state facilities are required to provide a specific amount of health care service to low income and needy patients. “Is this health care limited to hospital only or will health care be provided to the general public? What type of health care covered services will be provided?” he asked.

The CMS spokesperson on Wednesday said if CMS disapproved an amendment, “there would be no federal dollars provided for the changes proposed in the State Plan Amendment.”

“No federal dollars” could translate to hundreds of millions of dollars for a state already wrestling with suffocating budgetary constraints.

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It was with more than a little amusement that we read a couple of weeks ago that Gov. Bobby Jindal had called for jail time for any Internal Revenue Service officials found to have unfairly targeted conservative groups to be put in jail.

As usual, Jindal made his indignant, self-righteous proclamation at an out-of-state forum. This time, it was in a speech to Virginia Republicans in yet another stop in his 2016 presidential campaign that would be better suited for a Saturday Night Live parody skit than serious political discourse.

Oh, it’s not that we don’t agree with Jindal on this one point. The IRS certainly is far too powerful and is a force to be feared if one happens to be on the wrong end of a tax audit.

But coming from Jindal, it is simply yet another example of the “reform” governor’s façade of pseudo-transparency—hypocritical at worst, the subject of stinging ridicule at best.

“You do not take the freedoms of law-abiding citizens, whether you disagree with them or not, and keep your own freedom,” the Boy Blunder opined. “When you do that, you go to jail.”

But here’s the thing, Guv: It was only last March 11—not even three months ago—that we learned that one of Bobby’s boys, one Troy Hebert to be precise, director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), had ordered a background investigation on LouisianaVoice editor Tom Aswell (that would be me). Here is the link to that post:


Normally, we would not hold Jindal accountable for the actions of a rogue department head. But now the question must be asked if Hebert’s investigation was truly the action of a rouge department head, of someone who went “off the reservation,” or if the investigation may have been ordered by higher-ups.

Hey, even Henry Kissinger once said paranoid people sometimes have real enemies and recent events and revelations may well justify that paranoia. Read on.

On May 11, we sent a public records request to Superintendent of Education John White and we copied Department of Education (DOE) General Counsel Joan Hunt as is our practice when seeking records.

The request was straightforward enough: we asked for correspondence between White and his old New York boss Joel Klein dating back to July 1, 2011. Specifically, we were attempting to learn what communication the two had conducted relative to InBloom, the company Klein is now affiliated with and which was founded by News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch to serve as a “parking place” (in White’s words—a computer data bank, in more formal terms) for sensitive personal information on Louisiana students and teachers.

Hunt, subsequent to our request, fired off an email that same day to White, DOE attorney Willa LeBlanc and Hebert that said, “Troy, we need to reply and say that.”

But Hunt, most likely inadvertently, copied us into the reply as well.

Curious as to why Hebert would be included in the loop since he is about as far removed from DOE as possible (he’s under the Louisiana Department of Revenue) and equally curious as to what was supposed to have been said, we sent another public records request for all correspondence between DOE officials and Hebert.

The response to that request was even more puzzling:

“No Documents. Attorney-client privilege.”

Okay, first there are no documents but if there were, they would be privileged. That’s like the attorney who responded to a claim that his dog had bitten a passerby: “My dog does not bite. My dog was confined in the yard that day. I don’t own a dog.”

Really puzzled now, we sent another email on May 26 reiterating our request for correspondence between DOE and Hebert: “Inasmuch as you took the liberty to send your email to Troy Hebert, director of ATC and who is not an attorney nor is he a client of you or DOE, there is no client-attorney privilege.”

We also told Hunt that her provision of information about me to a non-involved third party constituted a “serious breach” that I was willing to report to the Louisiana Supreme Court’s Attorney Disciplinary Board.

Two days later we received another letter from the DOE legal office which said:

“As was indicated in the Department’s response dated and emailed to you on May 15, 2013, the Department has no public records responsive to your request. Any communications between the Legal Staff of LDOE and Troy Hebert would be privileged (attorney work product/privilege) and not subject to being released pursuant to a public records request. In addition, the Department is not in possession of any emails between Troy Hebert and John White.” There it is again: My dog doesn’t bite; I don’t own a dog.

We remained perplexed as to why Troy Hebert was brought into the conversation about our initial request. As the director of an agency completely removed from DOE, we knew there was no way possible that Hebert could be a client of either DOE or any of its legal staff and that fact only intensified our determination to learn what was going on.

Then we had occasion to interview Sen. Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe) Tuesday night about the Senate and Governmental Affairs deferral of a bill to protect state employee whistleblowers which had passed unanimously in the full House.

In that interview, Kostelka, a remarkably candid public servant, intimated that the committee had killed the bill to protect employees from supervisory reprisals for revealing official wrongdoing because one Troy Hebert had personally contacted each of the committee members to convey the message that the administration, i.e. Jindal, was not in favor of the bill. Kostelka, seeing the proverbial handwriting on the wall, did not object to the motion by Sen. Greg Tarver (D-Shreveport) to defer the bill.

It is not entirely clear why Hebert would be interjecting himself into legislative matters given the somewhat watery thin theory (in the case of Louisiana, at least) of separation of powers under which our state government proclaims to function.

He is, after all, a member of the administration, or executive branch and should not be lobbying the legislative branch. In fact, he is not even a registered lobbyist. And his dog doesn’t bite.

But at least we can now connect the dots as it all comes together. Hebert is one of those hangers-on—kind of like the new kid in town who hangs around the fringes of the playground hoping to make friends with the locals. He will do anything to curry favor with his boss—not exactly a wise career move at this point—including serving as a go-between messenger boy between the governor’s office and legislators.

…And between the governor’s office and DOE.

And Jindal now has the cajones to vilify the IRS for spying.

We bet Jindal doesn’t even own a dog.

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