20 June 2008

Floor action, Jun. 20: SB 402, SB 232, SB 233

SB 402 by Sen. Bill Cassidy would have a study of shifting funds for uncompensated care among south Louisiana hospitals in proportion to the health care services provided for the uninsured statewide, starting next fiscal year. Rep. Neil Abramson at first prevented the matter from coming off the calendar by asking for such a vote which failed to move it 40-51. Minutes later, it successfully came off the calendar by a failed vote to table 43-53, but Abramson tried to table it, but the motion was defeated.

Rep. Erich Ponti, handling it, said this would better allocate resources to true needs. Rep. Joe Harrison offered amendments that were dumped out in committee that turned it into a study bill rather than implementation. Abramson asked whether these were challenging the will of the Health and Welfare Committee which he said otherwise would not have let it out. Harrison did not agree but said the amendment would bring a substantitve change. Rep. Hunter Greene then move to end all amendment consideration, and Rep. Jeff Arnold then made a substitute to end only this to which passed 60-35. Harrison yielded on close to Ponti who said a study only wouldn’t accomplish much, that a money-follows-the-person approach needed to be implemented for proper funding, and it wouldn’t even go into effect for several years only after the Legislature approved. The amendment failed 30-68.

Abramson then offered amendments. He characterized the bill at present as a fight over dollars between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, saying why New Orleans seemed to get disproportionate dollars because much more teaching went on there. So, he wanted to incrementally add sections of the state through each amendment so he could allow everybody to gang up on each section just like the bill does, but then withdrew them all, believing a point had been made.

Rep. Robert Johnson said the bill was mischaracterized, saying it followed the proportion of uninsured people living in a region, not ailing individuals. He said to vote for it now would invite future raids on other regions. He said the mix of the kind of operations also was not going to be worked into the proposed formula, either. He implied the author of was using it for political gain relevant to Cassidy’s announced run for Congress.

Rep. Pat Smith said Earl K. Long Hospital since it was able to attract more insured that it was being used as a cash cow to supplement other institutions. She said teaching occurred there, as well. Rep. Michael Jackson admitted he was running for Congress, and said he thought this process was good as a study which, after being done in three regions, could be extended because he did not want it to be there to beat up on New Orleans.

Closing, Ponti emphasized this was only a study, and wondered why some seemed scared of a study. He said Baton Rouge actually was less maldistributed than some other southern regions, and the northern part of the state operated under a different system not relevant to the south. He said then population shift from the hurricane disasters made this study more necessary than ever.

The bill, after establishment of lockout and quorum, failed 35-61.

SB 232 by Sen. Willie Mount would place term limits on several boards and commissions of three years by constitutional amendemt. Handler Rep. Rick Gallot said if legislators had to be stopped at three terms (really, two-and-a-half), so should the education boards, State Civil Service Commission, Public Service Commission, etc. He also pointed out a two-year waiting period applied after being limited off one board to serve on another.

Rep. Cedric Richmond asked why leave out state elected officials; Gallot said it was Mount’s intent not to include them. Johnson wondered whether this limited discretion of voters, and Gallot said this was true but some to be affected would be appointed.

Rep. Rickey Hardy offered an amendment that would apply limits to judges, district attorneys, and sheriffs, with a grandfather clause. Rep. Cameron Henry asked if Hardy had consulted those being affected; he said he had not. Rep. Bodi White wondered why other parish-level officials weren’t included; Hardy said because he hadn’t thought of that. Rep. Nick Lorusso asked whether it was germane, and Speaker Jim Tucker ruled it didn’t since the bill addressed boards and commissions.

Gallot closed and the bill passed 92-8.

With SB 232 passed, now the enabling legislation became relevant. Gallot offered the identical amendments which were adopted. The bill passed 93-6.

Is this amendment germane to the bill?
Yes it is.
Hardy to Lorusso, before Tucker could say anything.

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