13 June 2007

Committee action, Jun. 13: HB 860, HB 25

HB 860 would abolish the Louisiana Insurance Rating Commission and in its place would create a position in the Insurance Department to be a consumer watchdog. Insurance Commissioner James Donelon said to the Senate Insurance Committee that the presence of a political body decreased the potential for competition that could lower rates, and the new position would serve as the consumer advocate.

Sen. Art Lentini thought this new position was inconsistent with general separation of powers in the provision that allowed only the Legislature to fire the advocate, saying a firing could be done by the commissioner for “cause.” But Donelon objected, saying the “cause” requirement was too limiting and said the electorate would pass judgment on whether his reasons for a personnel action in this instance were valid. Lentini said the nature of election meant there could be favoritism involved, but Donelon said no other officials had to suffer such a requirement, and called the amendment “unconstitutional.”

Sen. Bob Kostelka asked why not remove the cause requirement and then have a report that could be sent to the Legislature on it automatically in the case of a firing. He pointed out the attorney general under existing law still could do the same watchdog function and bring complaints. But the amendment was as adopted with the cause requirement.

Another amendment would undo a House floor provision which removed an exemption for commercial insurance writers from filing anything more than an informational document when business involved was greater than $10,000 in premiums, inadvertently amended out and existing in current law. It was adopted without objection, followed by the bill’s passage without objection.

HB 25 would require doctors to give certain information to women contemplating having an abortion which goes into a booklet already required in these cases. Author state Rep. A. G. Crowe told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that it says the unborn will feel pain and while there is no established consensus at when, the most popular figure is used, 20 weeks after gestation. He also said that it would let women know that they could have an ultrasound and view it. Crowe offered evidence that pain would be felt at 20 weeks, and it can be felt significantly for some time.

Sen. Lydia Jackson wanted offered some amendments that would also give information about pain, and that this would be reviewed by state medical professionals to ensure it is “factually-based” and “balanced.” After a slight revision to include a medical ethics profession on the review board, they were adopted.

Many of the usual suspects who had opposed to bill throughout reiterated their opposition, that the information that would be in should be accurate, and basically said the amendment made the bill less objectionable. The bill was reported without objection.

Afterwards, Sen. Joel Chiasson complained that a group of the bill’s supporters had accused him of leaving the room on a previous debate on the bill in the committee; Crowe recalled that Chiasson had been there. This provoked committee Chairman Joe McPherson to want the group’s representative to apologize to the committee, asked Crowe to facilitate that, and insinuated that the bill’s passage would be rougher without that. Crowe said it was regrettable something like that would happen.

The most common word used around here is “but” … “I’d support your bill, but …”
McPherson, when senators bandied about what they thought was the most common word used in Senate debating

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