- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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May 16

The Lake Charles American Press on a state House committee apparently saving patients from legislation that was introduced to overhaul the system by which medical doctors are investigated for misconduct:

A state House committee has apparently saved patients from legislation that was introduced to overhaul the system by which medical doctors are investigated for misconduct. Senate Bill 286 by Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, had earlier sailed through a Senate committee and was approved unanimously by the full Senate.



The Advocate reported the legislation drew national attention over concerns of what it could mean for patients. Dr. Robert Marier of New Orleans, former executive director of the state Board of Medical Examiners, said in a letter to the newspaper the bill would have been a disaster if it had been approved.

Dr. David Lewis, vice chancellor for clinical affairs at LSU Health Sciences in Shreveport, said, “Our first order of business is to do no harm. This particular bill could ultimately lead to harm of patients.”

Doctors who have faced punishment from the Board of Medical Examiners sought “The Physicians Bill of Rights” bill by Milkovich. One of them is now practicing in Arkansas and testified that he helped write the bill in response to disciplinary action he faced. He said there is really no way win an appeal.

The doctor was accused of leaving pre-signed prescription pads unattended, prescribing to family members without adequate documentation in their medical records and performing a minor office procedure in the clinic without proper documentation.

Dr. Marier in his letter said the legislation wasn’t a bill of rights for physicians but “a writ of immunity for physicians engaged in unprofessional conduct due to impairment, incompetence, exploitative or abusive conduct and for being a narcotic pill-pusher of prescription drugs.”

Milkovich stirred up considerable controversy when the House Health and Welfare Committee discussed his legislation. He frequently cited doctors who he said have killed themselves amid conduct investigations.

“If anyone comes up here and presents to you that there is not a problem, I think the diagnosis would be denial,” Milkovich said.

Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, said, “I’m not sure we want to change a lot of things when we have a regulatory system where doctors are held to the highest standards. I’d much rather hear from doctors who haven’t been through problems.”

The outcome here indicates having both the House and Senate examine proposed laws serves residents well.

Online: http://www.americanpress.com/

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May 16

The Houma Courier says voters will be able to right a wrong when it comes to the split-verdict law:

The Louisiana Legislature has moved forward a constitutional amendment that would remove a particularly ugly part of state law.

Voters will get to decide the fate of the proposal, which would strike down a law with a racist past and allow Louisiana to get in line with nearly every other state.

Only Louisiana and Oregon currently have laws that allow felony defendants to be convicted without unanimous jury decisions.

Instead, in an effort to nullify the power of black jurors, the state’s constitutional convention in 1898 created a provision that allows guilty verdicts in many felony trials even when three of 12 jurors voted not guilty. That requirement was later changed to 10, but the shameful past of the law is more than enough reason to question it and give voters the chance to change it.

The 1898 convention’s stated goal was to erode the political strength of black citizens. One of the ways the delegates did that was to ensure that even if several black people were on a jury, their white counterparts could still guarantee a conviction.

In Oregon, too, the strange allowance of non-unanimous verdicts has a racist past. And in that state, like our own, political leaders are seeking a change to a requirement that every other state has embraced.

To their credit, all our local representatives - Beryl Amedee, R-Houma, Truck Gisclair, D-Larose, Tanner Magee, R-Houma, Dee Richard, a Thibodaux independent, and Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma - voted in favor of sending the amendment to the voters. Local Sens. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, and Norby Chabert, R-Houma, also supported the measure. Ed Price, D-Gonzales, and Gary Smith, D-Norco, were absent for the final vote in the Senate.

Tellingly, the change drew praise from legislators and at least one civil rights organization.

“Louisianans now have the opportunity to change our state’s non-unanimous jury law, a policy that is rooted in racism and that consistently risks sending innocent people, most often from communities of color, to prison,” said Sarah Omojola, policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The time has come for Louisiana to join the rest of the nation and finally part ways with a throwback to a time when so many of our fellow citizens lacked basic rights - and when the government actively sought to take away those rights. The Legislature has now cleared the way for that process to take place.

Online: http://www.houmatoday.com

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May 16

The Advocate says there is no excuse for Louisiana lawmakers getting into a fist fight:

The story of two lawmakers who walk into a bar sounds like the start of a corny joke.

But laughs were apparently in short supply when two members of the Louisiana Legislature, state Rep. Stuart Bishop of Lafayette and state Sen. Norby Chabert of Houma, got into a fistfight at a downtown Baton Rouge bar the night of May 15.

Bishop and Chabert, both Republicans, apparently sparred over a dispute about some legislation earlier in the day. Police were called to the scene, but no arrests were made, according to media reports. Bishop told the Monroe News-Star that Chabert “punched me several times.” Bishop said he didn’t return the blows and was only bruised in the incident.

Both lawmakers have expressed regret over the incident, with Bishop apologizing to his fellow legislators on the House floor.

With the Legislature in constant session these days, tempers are bound to be ragged, though that’s no excuse for coming to blows. This is the kind of story that promises to go viral, cited as the latest evidence of the continuing decline in civility across America.

We’re encouraged, though, that Bishop and Chabert acknowledged the incident as a lapse in manners and apparently seem ready to move on.

That’s evidence, perhaps, that standards of private and personal conduct aren’t dead just yet.

Online: http://www.theadvocate.com

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