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After more than eight years, the time has come to shut LouisianaVoice down.

Some, perhaps many, who read this will be delighted and that’s okay. It’s their right to disagree with me and I should have no problem with that—and I don’t.

Others will be delighted at my timing, which comes on the eve of our October fundraiser during which I spend a lot of time begging for your hard-earned money like some kind of shameless, money-grubbing televangelist (except I don’t own a Lear jet or reside in a gated mansion).

Having said that, I would suggest that those of you who have monthly contributions set up on Paypal deactivate your accounts. But please know that I appreciate your support through the years more than you could ever possibly know.

I’m not taking this action lightly nor am I exiting voluntarily. I have been diagnosed with macular degeneration and my vision has deteriorated significantly over the past few months. While I remain fully capable of most activities such as driving because my vision is not focused on a single item, reading has become difficult. Reading has been a lifelong passion and where I once routinely read half a book at a sitting, I now find it nearly impossible to read more than three or four pages before the words start to run together in an indistinct blur.

I still have a couple of books I want to try to write if I can pull it off but doing that and conducting research for and then writing LouisianaVoice posts has become a bit much, so I had to make a choice.

Having said all that, below is my final post on LouisianaVoice:

 

So, you think your voice matters?

You believe that when you sign a petition to be sent to your congressman or legislator, s/he actually bothers to read them?

The answer to both questions is an unqualified NO!

If you don’t believe me, sit in on a legislative committee hearing sometime—either live or online. Better yet, set yourself up for total humiliation and actually testify before a legislative committee and just watch the committee members’ eyes glaze over or even watch them get up and move about, talking to other members or even texting or leaving the room while you offer your thoughts about a bill.

Or, you could do what retired State Budget Officer Stephen Winham does on a regular basis—write your congressman. Winham does so on at least a weekly basis, sometimes several times a week. It’s become something of an obsession with him to try and get a direct answer from U.S. Sen. John Kennedy who has yet to actually address any issue Winham has raised, answering instead with canned, form letters.

How’s that for representative government?

In one recent exchange, Winham sent the following email to Kennedy:

SUBJECT:  2nd Amendment

On this and other subjects, your questioning of nominee Kavanaugh was excellent, but sometimes too scholarly for a layperson to follow. In the case of the 2nd amendment vis-a-vis Judge Kavanaugh’s stance as an constitutional originalist, the clause you discussed was never actually stated: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,..” 

The 2nd amendment is very simple. Although the Supreme Court in Heller held the 2nd clause, “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” (and the one Judge Kavanaugh actually quoted) held precedence over the first.  I think you were trying to get Judge Kavanaugh’s take.  If so, you did not succeed. You also did not succeed in getting an answer to the question of, as an originalist, if a case came before the court overturning a Supreme Court decision on the basis that the original language was misinterpreted, how he would tend. In other words, even though Judge Kavanaugh continuously invoked precedents as modifying his legal stance as an originalist, he never answered the direct question of whether he would ever disagree with a precedent if he believed it was wrong based on the original language.

I personally believe Heller was a bad decision. IF we needed a militia, the need for assault weapons and other military and automatic weaponry might be justified. Since we don’t, it isn’t. You have taken a strong stance that seems consistent with Heller. Have you modified that stance in recent days? I sincerely hope so.

Stephen Winham

St. Francisville

 

Here is KENNEDY’S RESPONSE:

That, folks, is pure arrogance. I may be wrong on this point and if so, I stand corrected, but I believe Kennedy has yet to hold his first town hall meeting.

Need more convincing? Check out this VIDEO which they didn’t show you in high school civics class.

This is one of the reasons I launched LouisianaVoice in the first place. Yes, mine may accurately be called a negative voice. But when you realize that your voice, your ideas, your dreams, mean precious little to those in power, it’s pretty damned easy to be negative.

And just as the video demonstrates, all you have to do is follow the money to understand why corruption is legal in America.

So, let’s follow some money.

For the 2018 election cycle (that’s this year, as in right now, folks), click HERE to see the top 100 recipients of campaign contributions from lobbyists and from lobbyists and family members (in parentheses). Right there at number 19, with $225,000 ($244,000) is House Louisiana’s very own Steve Scalise. Here’s the LIST of lobbyist contributors to Scalise.

Not that he’s the only Louisiana member of congress to feed at the lobbyists’ trough. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy was 69th on the list, raking in $75,000 ($78,700) so far this year—and he’s not even up for re-election for another four years.

That’s nothing. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona has received $77,000 ($80,600)—and he’s also not running because he’s retiring from congress. Yet, he continues to collect lobbyist money.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves was 89th, with a somewhat more modest $60,000 ($62,400).

In the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton received a whopping $3 million ($3.4 million) while Donald Trump received only $112,500 ($143,000). Click HERE for Clinton’s individual lobbyist contributors and HERE for Trump’s.

In 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pulled in $2.2 million ($2.6 million) from lobbyists—both of which were $800,000 less than Clinton’s take in 2016). That same year, President Obama received $180,000 ($354,000) in lobbyist contributions.

Scalise, meanwhile, received $233,000 ($262,500) for the 2016 election cycle while Kennedy received $82,000 ($84,000) in his initial run for the Senate.

Charles Boustany received $283,000 ($302,600) in his loss to challenger Rep. Clay Higgins.

In Louisiana, 2014 was memorable for the bare-knuckled Senate fight between incumbent Mary Landrieu and successful challenger Bill Cassidy. In that race, Landrieu received $444,000 ($482,000) from lobbyists while Cassidy got $151,000 ($176,000).

Scalise received $93,500 ($103,500) and Graves got $71,500 ($74,300) in 2014.

Here are the top 100 recipients of lobbyist contributions for 2012, 2010 and 2008.

The next time you hear or see a political ad, remember this: The Russians didn’t invent campaign interference or manipulation. They were not the first by any means to spread misinformation and disinformation and they certainly didn’t invent planted or “fake” news. Political consultants have been doing that in this country for as long as we’ve been a nation. It’s not called “political science” for nothing.

What does all that mean? For openers, we’re all pawns in one gigantic chess game and the chess masters see us not as “deplorables,” as Hillary Clinton so infamously said, but as “disposables.” The bottom line, unfortunately, is that the system is hopelessly rigged so that corruption and power will long outlast exposure and prevail over the best-intentioned efforts at reform.

Call that cynical, jaded or pessimistic, it has become the sad reality of our time. Perhaps it was always this way and we just didn’t know it—until the emergence of the Internet, with its instant and universal access, brought us face to face with the truth.

Having said that, LouisianaVoice, in this, my last post, offers a first—my endorsements (for what they’re worth) for the Nov. 6 congressional races:

1st Congressional District: Tammy Savoie

2nd Congressional District: Cedric Richmond

3rd Congressional District: Mildred “Mimi” Methvin

4th Congressional District: Ryan Trundle

5th Congressional District: Jessee Sleenor

6th Congressional District: Garret Graves

 

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“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

  • Mahatma Ghandi

“If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values. Because you don’t.”

  • Comedian John Fugelsang (sometimes mistakenly attributed to President Jimmy Carter)

Guest column by earthmother

AKA Jerel M. Giarrusso

As you deliberate – again – about the state budget and taxes and cutting services and all those issues that will have a serious impact on the quality of life for a majority of Louisiana citizens (the folks who voted you into office, not the oligarchs you are beholden to), many of us have some things to say to you.  First of all, STOP WASTING OUR TAX DOLLARS ON SESSIONS, SPECIAL SESSIONS, EXTRA SPECIAL SESSIONS.  You are stealing your salary, your per diem, and even the light bill at the Capitol, etc., when you blather forever without passing a realistic, workable  budget bill.

Citizens have been begging you to do the right thing.  Nothing any of us says has an impact on you.  All we have are votes, not bribes or threats.  We have condemned the corporatocracy, where corporate welfare costs Louisiana more than public welfare.  Three years ago, LouisianaVoice published my first letter to you, with the link below, if you want to refresh your memory.

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/06/04/louisianavoice-reader-pens-open-letter-to-all-144-members-of-louisiana-legislature-asks-each-what-are-you-going-to-do/

Many of you claim to be devout Christians.  Since a majority of you don’t heed the cries of the mortal voting public, thanks to a little nudge from the Holy Spirit, I’ll try letting God do the talking to you.

I checked to see what the Bible says about taking from the poor and giving to the rich.  Here it is:

One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich–both come to poverty. Proverbs 22:16

 Next, His ideas about taking from the poor, those who work, caring for the poor, the oppressed – “the least of My brothers and sisters.”   God’s thoughts about that topic fill up most of the Old and New Testaments with hundreds of verses exhorting us to love another and care for the less fortunate.  It’s not practical to reprint the entire Bible, so a few key verses are printed below. You can read in God’s own words what He expects of us all. That happens to include you.

Before you tell me that God did not say that government has to provide for the less fortunate, but that charities, churches and individuals are commanded to do so:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God… whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God…For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them – taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. Romans 13:1-7

The New International Version (NIV) is quoted.  That’s a version of the Bible, the tome you tried to make the state book a while back.  You might want to actually read it.

Be forewarned, some of this is pretty radical stuff.  Following some of these divine directives will cost you some old friends, who will accuse you of being a liberal, a libtard, or a prog, like that’s a bad thing.  Better to lose those who would lead you down the road to perdition, and save your immortal soul.

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26

Another reminder, while you’re listening to folks like the Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity, LABI and Stephen Waguespack, Grover Norquist, Father God has more juice than any of them.  You’re better off in the long run being in the good graces of The Lord than with humans serving the wrong overlord.  Satan always comes in last and the Lord God prevails.

I’ll shut up now and let the Lord speak to you in His own words.  Please be sure to read to the end.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. Proverbs 21:13

Give to the one who begs from you. Proverbs 29:7

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3:17

No one can serve two masters…You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24

Do not rob the poor…or crush the afflicted at the gate, for the Lord will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them. Proverbs 22:22-23

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God;…woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation; …sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; …it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Luke 6:20, 24

Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD. “I will protect them from those who malign them.  Psalm 12:5

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. Proverbs 14:31 

They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. 1 Timothy 6:18

Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor. Proverbs 22:9

When you give a feast, invite the poor…and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection. Luke 14:14

 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy. Psalm 140:12

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner. Leviticus 19:9-10 

A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge. Proverbs 11:4

Those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. There was not a needy person among them, for the owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Acts 4:32-35

Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise. Luke 3:11

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? James 2:15-16

I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. Proverbs 28:6

Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom; she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. Ezekiel 16:49

I command you, “You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:11

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what your possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. Matthew 19:21

As for the rich…do not set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see him naked, to cover him? Isaiah 58:6-7

If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

Open your mouth for the rights of all who are destitute.  Defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9

May he defend the cause of the poor, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor! Psalm 72:4

You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. Deuteronomy 24:14

If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Leviticus 25:35

It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud. Proverbs 16:19

Did not I weep for him whose day was hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy? Job 30:25

The Final Judgment:

34  Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’

41  ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:34-46

Editor’s note: If you’re a member of the legislature and this made you a little uncomfortable, that was the intent. If it didn’t, then you’re just another political hack, a hypocritical opportunist.

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I want to share something with you.

I have leveled criticism at Louisiana’s legislators and at both the former and current governor. Much, if not all that criticism I believed to be legitimate and well-earned. I was unmercifully hard on Bobby Jindal for the simple reason that not only did I believe him to be inept, but heartless as well when it came to consideration of the needs of the sick and elderly, of students and teachers, of minorities and the poor. In the end, I’m convinced I was not hard enough on him.

But today, I read two documents that have prompted me to take a little different approach, especially as it regards one certain legislator, a man I have never met, a man with whom I have never spoken but a man, nevertheless, who gives me hope, after today’s readings, that there may yet be those who have some sense of priority and compassion.

The man is State Sen. J.P. MORRELL and I fervently hope that my praise isn’t misguided or ill-conceived. Sometimes we are too eager to find a hero or at least someone to look up to. I hope this isn’t one of those times.

First, some background.

Earlier on Sunday, I came across a heart-rending online story of the struggles of an Oregon woman who, already waging a heroic fight against cancer, had the added burden, along with her husband, of having to battle the bureaucratic idiocy of the nation’s largest medical insurer, UnitedHealthcare.

The story was infuriating. Here, on one hand, was a woman, a mother of a four-year-old daughter, being told that only a liver transplant could save her life. On the other hand, there were the brain-dead bean-counters at UnitedHealthcare, all the way up to the company’s CEO, denying her one chance at life.

Morrell, it turns out, read the same story and also saw it on CNN. But instead of recapping, here’s what Morrell wrote, courtesy of Kreweoftruth, a New Orleans Internet blog:

This morning, Mother’s Day, I watched, then read, the heart wrenching tale of Erika Zak on CNN.

Erika is a 38-year-old mother and wife, who defeated stage 4 metastatic colon cancer but is dying.  Her liver, damaged by microwave ablation surgery, is failing and she is dying. So, she began the second fight of her life… with her insurance company.

Sitting with my wife and kids, enjoying breakfast today on Mother’s Day, this story deeply affected me. To be powerless in the face of callous CEOs making decisions regarding whether you live or die, it’s terrifying. 

Inevitably, I saw the obvious parallels between her plight and tens of thousands of Louisianans at the mercy of the Louisiana State Legislature and our budget crisis. As we contemplate passing ‘fake’ budgets as part of a ‘process’, we are playing games and, consequently, playing with people’s lives.

A $650+ million shortfall is less than two months away. As we squabble, 35,000+ nursing home recipients are being told that they are about to be evicted. With no clear and reasonable revenue agreement in place, we alternate between closing hospitals with medical schools, burdening families with crippling college debt, or cutting services to the Department of Children and Family Services.

As the Chairman of the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee, my role is to try to shepherd revenue raising measures through this process to avert this disaster. It’s an awesome, and terrifying, responsibility that weighs on me every single day.

Some of the issues being debated this session are tremendously important, such as criminal justice reform or public safety. Other bills are innocuous and warrant little to no debate, like renaming highways or changing the membership of security districts. However, there are some bills that are neither important nor insignificant.

House Bill 553, regarding the renewal of the Harrah’s gaming license is one such bill. The amount of time, energy and effort that has been expended by the proponents and opponents of this bill is staggering. The Senate has been barraged by the effort of over a dozen registered lobbyists each one of whom is trying to explain why this bill is a ‘good deal’ for the City of New Orleans and State of Louisiana. On the other hand, the opposition has its own horde of unregistered lobbyists to advocate for competing business interests. Both sides have expended an immense amount of time trying to shape opinions, news and narratives to get their own way.  

As someone inside this chaotic budget crisis, this Harrah’s deal is truly unworthy of our attention. Whether you believe the current deal is a good one or whether there is time to negotiate a better one, either position is immaterial.

With the looming crisis facing our state, and our city, the noise surrounding this deal is an unwarranted distraction. I do not want myself or my colleagues to be distracted. The citizens of Louisiana deserve much better than that. And, I’m going to use my position to insist they get it. Consideration of an early renewal of this license right now, is like trying to get a lower lease payment on your car while you home is under foreclosure. We need to get our home in order. 

Negotiations of this kind are about maximizing leverage and should never be negotiated until each party is on equal footing. The State of Louisiana is broke and can’t pay its bills, a circumstance that makes any extra money seem attractive. That’s not a good place to start a negotiation. 

Tomorrow, in Senate Judiciary B Committee, I will cast my vote to defer this bill for this legislative session. A future legislature will have ample time to reconsider this issue when the budget crisis has passed. 

I am putting my position on the record, before committee, because the legislature is trying to adjourn by Friday, May 18th. The purpose of the early adjournment is to spare taxpayers the additional cost of a special session. Bills of this nature, with tremendous forces on both sides vying for supremacy, will destroy a possibility of this happening. 

-JP Morrell

Louisiana State Senator, District 3

Morrell seems to be one responsible legislator, at least in this case, who can cut through the B.S. and get to the core of the issue facing the state.

And he understands and is disgusted by the fact that legislators can spend so much time on issues that do not address the fiscal problems facing the state and its citizens:

  • Issues like Payday loan companies’ attempt to raise interest rates to 167 percent (Morrell was absent for that vote, which passed the Senate by a 20-17 margin but which later failed to make it out of committee on the House side).
  • Issues like allowing anyone—anyone—with a concealed carry permit to enter public schools in Louisiana fully armed.
  • Issues like commending a former state legislator for his support of a ridiculous bill that was struck down by the Supreme Court. Really?
  • Issues like, as Morrell points out, renaming highways or changing memberships of security districts.

And Morrell is not shy in noting that in the furor over the Harrah’s gaming license, the legislature has been overrun by parasites with briefcases, aka lobbyists for both sides. Some of them, he said aren’t even registered lobbyists as required by law. All so Harrah’s can get an early renewal of its license. Early—while the attention to the looming fiscal cliff has been a little late in claiming the serious attention of people like Cameron Henry and Lance Harris and House Speaker Taylor Barras.

A decade of kicking the can down the road and it’s starting to show a few dents.

Morrell, at least, gets it.

One word.

Priorities.

Now, if he could just get the message across to his colleagues…

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Editor’s note: The following (with added comment) is a guest column provided to LouisianaVoice by the Healthcare Alliance for Regulatory Board Reform (HARBR):

By Christian Wolff

Louisiana Senate Bill 286, dubbed the Physician’s Bill of Rights, fell into a “coma” before the Louisiana Legislature on last Wednesday but not before an outburst over the testimony of the bill’s author.

Sen John Milkovich (D-Shreveport) was in the middle of explaining the obvious conflict of interest on the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners when he was interrupted by New Orleans attorney Jack Stolier who twice shouted that Milkovich’s testimony was a “bald faced lie.” (Milkovich’s testimony and Stolier’s off-camera interruption can be heard beginning at the 7:15 MARK of this video of the House Health and Welfare Committee.)

Milkovich had just referenced an “affair” between Dr. Cecilia Mouton, then an investigator for the board of medical examiners, and Stolier, who represented physicians before the board in disciplinary matters.

But hey, the brief flareup was by far the most interesting—and probably the most intelligent—moment of this session sadly marked by legislative ineptitude, indecision, and concerted efforts to bow to the will of special interests st the expense of constituents and Louisiana (See the disgraceful Senate passage of the Payday Loan bill. How anyone can hold out one scintilla of hope for this bunch is beyond comprehension).

After Stolier was escorted from the committee room by Capitol security personnel, Milkovich read from a March 18, 2016, LouisianaVoice post which alluded to the relationship between the two. He also cited a letter from a board director which acknowledged a “personal relationship” between the two. Mouton, now Director of Operations for the board, and Stolier have since married but Milkovich called the romantic link between Mouton, who was prosecuting doctors, and Stolier, who was defending them, a blatant conflict of interest.

This, folks, is typical of the manner in which both the Board of Medical Examiners and the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry disregard due process and run roughshod over members of the medical profession who are charged and deemed guilty without even a nod at procedure. Guilty until proven innocent turns legal procedure on its head and is the very reason why some sort of checks and balances are desperately need to bring these rogue board under control.

But instead, the board, without objection, agreed that the bill be involuntarily deferred, meaning that for all practical purposes, it is dead for this session. (This, by the way, is the same Board of Medical Examiners that has defied a court order and continues to refuse to allow the legislative auditor to see its records so the auditor can do his job.)

Typically, the House does not entertain motions to override/hear bills that were involuntarily deferred in a committee.

This is the same legislature that is on the verge of approving (the Senate already has, by a 20-17 vote) an increase to 167 percent in interest rates payday loan predators can charge, along with doubling loan origination fees. Looks like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been busy this session—as it has in past years.

Advocates of SB 286 praised it on May 2 as an excellent piece of legislation. It was referred to it as “landmark” bill with implications for the due process reforms of healthcare licensing boards in every state in the nation.

Legislators’ indifference—not unlike their indifference to solving the state’s fiscal ills—could open the state up to litigation, leaving it to Attorney General Jeff Landry to try and defend the state, an interesting proposition in itself. Such potential litigation already has a precedent: a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v Federal Trade Commission. In that decision, SCOTUS laid out conditions by which licensing and regulatory boards could and could not act as agents of their respective states.

In order to be considered a “state agency,” boards now need to show that they have a voting minority of “market place participants” in the profession being regulated. The other means by which a state regulatory or licensing board may come into compliance with the SCOTUS decision, and now, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) mandate, is to have demonstrable and meaningful state oversight by an entity or entities which are not marketplace participants in the profession regulated by the board over which they are providing oversight.

The concern of SCOTUS and the FTC is that without meeting at least one of these two conditions, licensing and regulatory boards might act in their own interests rather than in the interest of the public. Moreover, SCOTUS and FTC, are concerned that beyond acting in the interest of their own professions over the interest of the public, boards may act in the interest of boards themselves over the fair and equal interest of given licensees or classes of licensees. This might be called “market capture via regulatory capture” and would be to the detriment of patients, the public, and licensees alike.

States whose regulatory boards do not comply with the conditions set forth in North Carolina Dental Board leave every member of every board including administrative staff and legal counsel legally exposed in their professional capacities and as individuals. Suits might be based in the violation of anti-trust laws, or on injury against persons (such as licensees) who were harmed without the benefit of due process of law.

Healthcare licensees in every state across the nation are being awakened to the injustices which have befallen physicians, and increasingly, other healthcare providers, since the passing of the short-sighted Healthcare Quality Improvement Act in 1986.

Louisiana is not alone by any stretch. It was foolish and immature for the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee to put SB 286 to rest in the way it did. When the Physicians’ Bill of Rights awakens from its “Involuntary Deferment” it may well be in a different state already positioned to make the proper move. The first state will set the landmark precedent and if the precedent does not affect national policy, it will be followed by every state in the nation.

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Something happening here,

What it is ain’t exactly clear

 

The 1967 Buffalo Springfield Vietnam War protest song, For What It’s Worth could be applicable to just about any scenario in Louisiana politics but probably never more so than with HOUSE BILL 727 by State Rep. Major Thibaut (D-New Roads).

Thibaut, posing as a Democrat but appearing to be anything but, apparently wants to repeal the FIRST AMENDMENT which guarantees American citizens the right of peaceful assembly.

HB 727, which has 50 additional co-authors in the House and 14 in the Senate, would amend an existing statute in accordance with the dictates of the AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE EXCHANGE COUNCIL (ALEC), which long ago wormed its way into the Republican mindset as a means of advancing its agenda.

That agenda, of course, works hand-in-hand with that of corporate America—big oil, big banks, big pharma, charter schools, and private prisons, among others—to the overall detriment of those who ultimately foot the bill—the working stiffs of middle America who continue to convince themselves that their interests are compatible.

The bottom line is this: if the corporate giants are shelling out millions upon millions of dollars to lobby lawmakers and to finance their campaigns, you can bet they’re in bed together. And when they whisper sweet nothings in each other’s ear, they ain’t discussing how to make your life easier.

And that’s HB 727 and ALEC are all about. While the seemingly innocuous bill appears only to lay out penalties for trespassing onto “critical infrastructure,” and to include “pipelines” or “any site where the construction or improvement of any facility or structure…is occurring” to the definition of critical infrastructure, the wording of the bill includes subtle landmines designed to discourage otherwise legal protests.

For instance, while criminal trespass and criminal damage has long been considered a violation of the law, the bill adds this provision:

“Any person who commits the crime of criminal damage to a critical infrastructure wherein it is foreseeable that human life will be threatened or operations of a critical infrastructure will be disrupted as a result of such conduct shall be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than six years nor more than 20 years, fined not more than $25,000, or both.”

There’s a man with a gun over there

Telling me I got to beware

The key phrase here is “wherein it is foreseeable…”

This is a pretty subjective call on someone’s part. Just who decides what is “foreseeable”?

And then there is the conspiracy clause that’s added to the bill.

HB 727, which passed the HOUSE by an overwhelming 97-3 vote with five members absent, provides if “two or more” person conspire to violate the statute, each “shall be imprisoned with or without hard labor for not more than five years, fined not more than $10,000, or both.”

Just what would constitute a “conspiracy” in this case? Well, it could mean the simple discussion of possible trespass. Whatever it is, the word “foreseeable” is thrown into the mix again. So, a protest in the proximity of pipeline construction could conceivably be construed by an ambitious prosecutor as “conspiracy” and any discussion during such a protest could become a conspiracy.

Besides being yet another windfall for the private prisons, this bill is nothing more than a means to discourage protests over pipeline construction through sensitive areas such as the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, a joint venture of Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66 (keep those names in mind; they’ll come up again later).

It’s also an obvious effort to placate ALEC and the oil and gas industry that has held this state, its governors and legislators captive for a century. The political leaders of this state, from the governor on down, won’t go to the bathroom without permission from Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, which boasts on its WEB PAGE that it is “Louisiana’s longest-standing trade association” (read: lobbying arm of the petroleum industry).

There’s battle lines being drawn;

Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

What’s not difficult to believe is the motivation behind nearly half of the bill’s sponsors.

Of the 51 representatives and 14 senators who signed on as co-authors of the bill, 31 (23 representatives and eight senators) combined to rake in $62,500 in contributions from Transfer Partners and Phillips 66 since January 2011.

ENERGY TRANSFER PARTNERS CONTRIBUTIONS

PHILLIPS 66 CONTRIBUTIONS

Phillips also gave $3,500 to Senate President John Alario and Energy Transfer Partners chipped in another $4,000. Additionally, Energy Transfer Partners gave $4,000 to then-Sen. Robert Adley of Bossier Parish who was appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards as Executive Director of the Louisiana Offshore Terminal Authority, $2,000 to then-Rep. Jim Fannin of Jonesboro who served as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee at the time.

Energy Transfer Partners also contributed $5,000 to Edwards, who is on record as SUPPORTING the Bayou Bridge project, and Phillips 66 added another $5,500.

Thibaut was not one of those. But he did specialize in accepting campaign contributions from more than 40 political action committees—including several aligned with energy interests. In all, he pulled in $105,000 from PACs since 2008, campaign records show.

Those PACs included such diverse interests as dentists, bankers, payday loan companies, optometrists, insurance, student loans, pharmaceutical companies, sugar, realtors, and nursing homes, to name only a few.

EASTPAC, WESTPAC, NORTHPAC, and SOUTHPAC, four PACs run by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) combined to $13,750 to Thibaut, records show, while the Louisiana Manufacturers PAC gave $11,000.

With that money stacked against them, the Bayou Bridge pipeline opponents are fighting an uphill battle, especially with leaders like Edwards already having publicly endorsed the project.

The end game, of course, is to head off a repeat of STANDING ROCK, the largest Native American protest movement in modern history over the construction of a 1,170-mile Dakota Access pipeline, of which the BAYOU BRIDGE project through the Atchafalaya Basin is a part. Opponents of the 162-mile Bayou Bridge project—from St. James Parish to Calcasieu Parish—say would harm the area’s delicate ecosystem.

Standing Rock was an ugly scene, further illustrative of how this country has time after time ripped land, basic human rights and dignity from the country’s original inhabitants, inhabitants who weren’t even recognized as American citizens until 1924 even though more than 12,000 fought for this country in World War I.

Standing Rock apparently was such a national emergency that St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne, at the time President of the National Sheriffs’ Association, found it necessary to visit Standing Rock in 2016 and to write a lengthy self-serving account in the association’s online PRESIDENT’S PODIUM of the carnage he witnessed at the hands of the protestors whom he described in less than glowing terms.

His article prompted a lengthy REBUTTAL by Cherri Foytlin, state Director of BOLD LOUISIANA in Rayne and Monique Verdin, a citizen of the UNITED HOUMA NATION, who also were at Standing Rock. It’s difficult to believe, after reading the two missives, that they were at the same place, witnessing the same events play out.

What a field day for the heat;

A thousand people in the street

Singing songs and carrying signs

Mostly saying, “hooray for our side.”

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