2011 Regular Session . May 13, 2011
Alert! Take action now. Big Oil, LABI and others are back at it again
Bills would grant broad immunity to special groups, allow 'balance billing' for ambulance companies/health care providers, strip citizens' access to courts for oilfield contamination claims, wipe out the authority of district courts and more
Immunity for medical and health providers as a constitutional amendment
SB 61 by Sen. Fred Mills Jr. provides for a constitutional amendment that would allow limited liability for medical and health care providers "in all cases" and for "all damages and losses." All provisions of this bill would be retroactive. If passed, this measure would be on the October ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment.
The message to lawmakers? The state constitution should not allow for select classes to escape responsibility while barring other citizens from full access to the courts. This bill carries an ominous danger. Remaking the state constitution to allow one special group no responsibility under the law will certainly lead to others expecting the same privilege. A cap on general damages would not be far behind. Senate Judiciary A will hear this bill. A date and agenda are not yet available.
SB 149 by Sen. Dan "Blade" Morrish is grossly unfair to patients/insureds. It would allow ambulance companies, hospitals and health care providers to collect the difference or "balance" between a service fee agreed upon with insurers and the full amount providers charge for that same medical service or procedure. SB 149 would allow balance billing despite an existing contractual reimbursement rate and the fact that some such contracts prohibit balance billing. SB 149 pulls money out of the pocket of the patient/insured. Senate Judiciary A will hear this bill. A date and agenda are not yet available.
Oilfield environmental mess gets stinkier
These bills require immediate action: HB 563 by Rep. Page Cortez, HB 564 by Rep. Alan Seabaugh and SB 146 by Sen. Robert Adley. Backed by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association and LABI, these bills create yet another level of state bureaucracy that would supersede landowners' rights to go to court over oilfield-related contamination claims. HB 563 and SB 146 create "primary jurisdiction" for the Office of Conservation over all claims of environmental damage resulting from oil and gas exploration and drilling. (Do they think citizens have forgotten the BP environmental disaster so soon?) HB 564 makes "specific performance" the "preferred remedy." These bills are in direct conflict with Act 312 and would require the Department of Natural Resources to prepare a cleanup plan BEFORE any determination of liability and BEFORE any discovery in court to determine the full extent of contamination. These proposals are an outrageous affront to the health and welfare of Louisiana citizens, the Louisiana Constitution and the entire judicial branch of government.
Act now! HB 563 will be heard in House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, May 18. It's rumored that the bill may be amended regarding citizens' access to the courts. Leave nothing to chance. Contact the sponsors Cortez, Champagne, Katz, Seabaugh and Kostelka plus committee members. Share with them your understanding of the overreaching flaws in this bill, not just as they pertain to landowners' perspective.
Another oil and gas bill seeks immunity, prevents lawsuits from oyster fishermen and leaseholders
SB 240 is a harsh proposal by Sen. Norby Chabert that puts the oil and gas industry in an elite class at the expense of oyster fishermen and leaseholders. SB 240 bars "any claim for any damage" caused by oil and gas exploration and production as long as the oil and gas permit predates the oyster lease application date. Other provisions of the bill are just as egregious. Many oyster fishermen still struggling from BP's Gulf oil disaster cannot take another hit upon their livelihood. If you have clients, family members or friends who make their living in the oyster industry or if you care about protecting these hard-working citizens, tell them about this bill. Certain sections are being rewritten and the bill is subject to further review. If you are interested in the present, revised version of this bill, we can send it to you. A hearing before Senate Natural Resources Committee is not yet set.
And, a progress report
HB 346 by Rep. Thomas Willmott was deferred to a study committee. It would have required insurers to notify claimants of settlement in third-party liability claims. The bill was in House Insurance Committee this past Wednesday.
Tuesday, May 17, is LAJ Legislative Awareness Day at the Capitol
This is your day at the Capitol. Members are signing up daily to attend. The day includes breakfast, briefing on proposed bills of concern, observing committee hearings at the Capitol and lunch with legislators at LAJ offices. Sign up online or call the LAJ office at 225-383-5554 to let us know you will attend.
View live and archived broadcasts of some legislative committee hearings. Go to Legislature's Web portal to view schedules and instructions on how to tune in. Use this same link to contact your legislators, access information about bills, check committee schedules and more.
The session must adjourn on or before 6 p.m., Thursday, June 23, 2011.