15 April 2008

Floor action, Apr. 15: HB 106, SB 61

HB 106 by J.P. Morrell would prohibit false statements by candidates in an election, with a possible overturning of an election result. A number of representatives saw problems with the practical implementation of the bill, even as they sympathized with the intent. Some saw how the standards could be manipulated to try to overturn election results by the losing party in hopes of having a revote where they would win, while, others argued that except for “oral” incidents recorded, these things never could be connected back to a campaign. Others wondered why this wouldn’t be case of libel which already has redress.

The most striking question was by Rep. Kirk Talbot, who wondered whether the bill as at all constitutional, given the First Amendment. “There’s no way in the world this is going to hold up,” he argued, admitting he was a non-lawyer. Rep. Tony Ligi wondered whether there were alternative means by which to deal with this issue, besides a civil lawsuit; Morrell said he intentionally made it a felony thus a criminal issue to deter and that current law had no remedy for a candidate losing an election because of false statements.

An amendment by Rep. Cameron Henry make it apply only to oral statement, adopted by consent. It then went to a vote, after an unsuccessful lockout attempt, the bill was defeated 48-52.

SB 61 would force companies that write vehicle insurance to military personnel also to write them homeowners’ policies. Author Sen. Derrick Shepherd argued that this bill would help military personnel and veterans that often were forced to transfer to Louisiana and this was something the state could do on their behalf, to allow them to get insurance.

Sen. Nick Gautreaux argued that this would help the writing of policies in south Louisiana. He said the promise of stricter building codes was not improving rates for anyone, least of all the military. An amendment by Sen. Reggie Dupre ensured that active military had to at least get an offer for insurance if the new dwelling was no riskier than the previous by their vehicle insurer, pointing out this would apply only to 2,000 or so people. It passed 22-9.

Opponents argued that regulation of the industry was going to increase the cost of insurance and actually decrease the amount of insurance. Sen. Gerald Long, involved in insurance, said less policy-writing would occur. “Let’s lower the rates,” argued Sen. Jack Donahue, saying this would allow any high-risk building to occur if a company wanted to offer vehicle insurance.

But Sen. Dale Erdey said other previous reforms had attracted new writers and this bill would send the message that the state would carve out exceptions forcing the writing of policies, mandating rather than encouraging competitive rates.

In closing, Shepherd said not to pass the bill would be dishonoring those who served their country, claiming the Senate was losing respect for the military. He also said the military already gets a 10 percent auto insurance discount, he pointed out, so why not grant access to home insurance that does not even mandate rates? “How dare we get to the point where we say … I’m for it, but not now,” he proclaimed. “We’re losing our perspective.”

The bill was defeated 15-20.

And proud of it.
Ligi, in describing his not being a lawyer.

WEDNESDAY: HB 981 is scheduled to be heard by the House and Governmental Affairs Committee.


Anonymous said...

What do you think about Duplesis bill to raise legislator's pay to $$70k a year.

This is wrong and I hope that the people of the state stand up against this nonsense. How is it that Alabama pays is legislators $1,000 a year and have so much more to show for it > Mobile 9steel mill, Nascar, EADS), Huntsville (research park), B'ham (medical), etc...

Jeff Sadow said...

It made my list of bad bills with no problem. If it continues to survive no doubt eventually I'll be rendering a fuller opinion on it at http://www.between-lines.com