Republican State Sen. Peacock guts key provision of tort reform for businesses, prompting disappointment from colleague Sen. Cloud.

State Sen. Barrow Peacock introduces an amendment on Monday, June 22, 2020 to the tort reform initiative which led to colleague State Sen. Heather Cloud’s disappointment over the amendment’s effective gutting of insurance premium reductions for small businesses, particularly trucking operations like her own.

Sound Off Louisiana subscribers will recall our reporting on the absolute, unmitigated disaster that Louisiana State REPUBLICAN members allowed to transpire which torpedoed the regular session’s tort reform effort.  That total implosion occurred in a conference committee comprised of six members (three from the House and three from the Senate) wherein an amendment was added to essentially offset the bill’s provision on “collateral source” (we’ll be illustrating “collateral source” in very simple, easy-to-understand terms shortly).

In really overly simplistic terms, the amendment essentially provided that insurance companies would have to remit upfront 18 months of health insurance premiums to an auto accident victim.  Astute members of the Legislature, particularly State Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) recognized what a disastrous effect that amendment had on the whole tort reform effort.  Accordingly, he, along with fellow conservative (and House GOP delegation leader) State Rep. Blake Miguez (R-Erath) declined to even support the measure that came out of the conference committee (they abstained from voting on the measure).

The measure was then presented to the respective bodies of the Legislature, many of whom went on the faith and word of members of the conference committee, that the bill was “a good bill” and deserved their support, where it passed.  The House vote transpired with literally only 17 minutes left before the session expired, and many representatives readily admitted to not having a clue what they were voting upon.  Conservative talk-show host Moon Griffon reported on his June 2, 2020 program that State Sen. Kirk Talbot, who sponsored the tort reform bill, was actually calling a number of his colleagues apologizing for what happened with the bill because Talbot was a member assigned to the conference committee.

When word spread of what the disastrous amendment was and, amid predictions that insurance premiums would actually increase 15% – 20% as a result of the bill, Griffon further reported that many Republican legislators immediately found themselves in the awkward position of having to hope that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards would veto the bill they’d just voted for!  Edwards, a staunch opponent of tort reform, obliged, and we have no doubt he laughed uncontrollably at the very thought of Republican legislators secretly hoping he would veto THEIR OWN bill!  If any Republican had objected (which certainly wouldn’t happen), he could have easily said, “I just did what you guys wanted me to do.”  Obviously, given the bizarre circumstances, there was no initiative whatsoever by Republicans to override Edwards’ veto.

So, along comes the current special session, which ends on Tuesday (June 30, 2020), and an effort is made to essentially totally reset and start from scratch on tort reform.  Given the debacle that transpired last session, we at Sound Off Louisiana have intentionally refrained from reporting anything until we’re right here at the closing wire.  To be blunt, we simply have not shared  some of the optimism being expressed regarding the current effort, nor do we want to get burned again the way we did last session!

It turns out that our skepticism over the current effort has been well-justified.  On Monday, June 22, 2020, State Sen. Barrow Peacock (R-Bossier City), almost assuredly at the urging of Sen. President Page Cortez (R-Lafayette), introduced an amendment designed to essentially gut the current tort reform effort entailing providing much-needed insurance premium relief for small businesses.  He did so by sponsoring an amendment to remove the provision of the original bill called “collateral source” (again, we are going to illustrate “collateral source” in simple, easy-to-understand terms shortly).

Peacock’s move resulted in extreme disappointment to his colleague State Sen. Heather Cloud (R-Turkey Creek), who had based her entire campaign (which she won in the first primary with an astounding 63% of the vote) on the need for tort reform and illustrated that need by the significant adverse impact the current legal climate in Louisiana has on her own trucking business.  Accordingly, on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, many of Sen. Cloud’s constituents texted her and encouraged her to appear on Griffon’s show.  She did so, and we think our subscribers can learn quite a bit by merely listening in on just what all she had to say about the prior day’s developments as led by Sen. Peacock (again, almost assuredly at the direct behest of Cortez):

Sen. Cloud voices her disappointment on the Moon Griffon show on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, the day after the removal of “collateral source” amendment was adopted.

The very next day, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, Griffon had on his show Pelican Institute CEO Daniel Erspamer, who described the latest iteration of the Legislature’s tort reform efforts as “frustrating to watch.”  Griffon unloaded on a number of legislators immediately after Erspamer made his statement, so let’s listen in on just what Griffon’s take is on the current (and past) tort reform efforts by Louisiana Republicans:

On his Wednesday, June 24, 2020 show, Griffon unloads on several state legislators regarding their efforts entailing tort reform.

Now, just as we promised above, we are about to illustrate in extremely simple terms just what transpired by the removal of “collateral source.”  The phrase has the connotation of being very complicated when, in reality, it’s actually very simple.

The easiest way to illustrate the impact of the amendment’s effect is to provide a real-life example.  On Monday, June 1, 2020, Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns had to have a minor surgical procedure performed.  While it was not the result of any traffic accident, it serves the purpose perfectly for this illustration.  The cost of the procedure has already been processed by Burns’ insurance carrier, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBS), and here is the claim form’s details for Burns’ procedure:

Now, as plainly seen above, the doctor billed $1,600 for the procedure; however, BCBS only approved $184.12, and that is the actual amount Burns had to pay the doctor (as noted by BCBS indicating Burns has not yet met his annual deductible and therefore would be responsible for paying the $184.12).

The way the process works now is that the judge or jury is shown only the $1,600 billed.  Accordingly, the judgment is likely to be for $1,600.  Well, since most trial lawyers have one-third contingency contracts for auto accidents, let’s take a look at just how much the attorney receives of that $1,600, shall we?

$1,600 x 1/3 = $533.33.

The plaintiff (had this been an auto accident) actually also gets a huge windfall because, while he paid only $184.12 for the procedure, he would obtain $1,066.67 from the defendant’s insurance company, resulting in an $882.55 windfall ($1,066.67 – $184.12).  Not too shabby, huh?

The original tort reform measure would, as Sen. Cloud explains in the audio above, have permitted the jury to see BOTH the amount the doctor billed for the procedure AND the amount he or she was actually paid and use both numbers in setting the award for damages.  The reason the trial lawyer lobby has fought the inclusion of “collateral source” (i.e. the disclosure of these varying amounts) is because they know most juries would simply not allow for such an unjustified windfall and would only award the actual amount the defendant had to pay for the procedure, or $184.12 in the illustration above, rather than the “phantom number” (as stated by Cloud on the audio above) of $1,600.

Well, what exactly would this mean for an attorney handling this case?  What would his compensation be if the jury only awarded $184.12 rather than $1,600?  The math is pretty simple, and here it is:

$184.12 x 1/3 = $61.37.

So, in the example above, the lawyer loses out on $471.96 ($533.33 – $61.37)!  Now it becomes very easy to see why the trial lawyer lobby so staunchly opposes the introduction of “collateral source” (i.e. disclosing both numbers to the jury) into Louisiana’s legal system, no?

So, when Sen. Peacock described the removal of collateral source from the tort reform bill as “unfortunate” (see first segment of second video above), here’s what he was REALLY saying to Sen. Cloud and other small business owners like her:  “Sen. Cloud, unfortunately, we’re going to have to continue to charge you outrageous insurance premiums irrespective of whether it closes you down or not or forces your relocation out of state because we’ve got some trial lawyers whom we don’t want to see have to downsize from a $3.8 million home to a mere $2.1 million home.”  That’s a heck of a message to send to small business owners across this state, much less others looking to potentially locate here, huh?

One other note we wish to make.  One prominent Republican Louisiana State Senator made a Facebook post stating that “much” of what we have said about the Louisiana Legislature’s tort reform efforts is “wrong.”  Needless to say, we were not very pleased with that Facebook post by that prominent Louisiana State Senator, and we theorized that what was referenced originated from our repeating of  Griffon’s statements he made on his June 2, 2020 program because that was the crux of our Facebook statements which were deemed “wrong” by this State Senator.

We challenged the State Senator to provide specific examples of where we are “wrong,” and we supplied the Griffon link above as our source.  The response from this State Senator?  As U. S. Sen John Kennedy would say, “zero, zilch, nada, nothing.”  We also told the State Senator that we would provide unlimited video time on Sound Off Louisiana for which we would not edit in any way, shape, or fashion for this State Senator to go on camera and elaborate upon how “much” of what we have stated is “wrong,” and we also stated that we felt certain Griffon would extend the same invitation.  Again, no response.

We’re going to conclude by making this simple statement to ALL Republican legislators regarding our Facebook exchange with the State Senator.  Sound Off Louisiana‘s Burns is most certainly not the “Tyler Bridges of the Republican Party of Louisiana.”  For those unfamiliar with Bridges, he is an Advocate reporter who has the moniker among conservative Republicans of being a “stenographer for John Bel Edwards.”  Essentially, they contend he publishes whatever John Bel Edwards tells him to place in his articles.  What we mean by our warning to Republican legislators is that any legislator who believes Burns is simply going to copy and paste the spin put out in an email sent by a Republican legislator on any matter doesn’t know Burns well at all!

Burns has no problem being called “wrong,” and he will happily correct any error pointed out to him by anyone.  That fact notwithstanding, when someone makes a very public proclamation that he is “wrong” on “most” of his commentary on tort reform efforts and then declines to provide the first modicum of substantiation on how he is “wrong,” that individual (be it a sitting Louisiana State Senator or otherwise) loses an absolute boatload of respect from Burns!

So, in final analysis, where does the modified tort reform effort initiative currently stand in the Legislature?  Once again, it is being deliberated by yet another conference committee.  Given the absolute unmitigated disaster that transpired in that committee during the regular session, House Speaker Schexnayder and Senate President Cortez apparently decided to take no chances of a repeat debacle this time around and named themselves as members of the conference committee.  A full list of members follows:

HOUSE conference committee membership on tort reform:

Speaker Schexnayder (R-Gonzales), Rep. Greg Miller (R-Norco), and Rep. John Stefanski (R-Crowley)

SENATE conference committee membership on tort reform:

Sen. President Page Cortez (R-Lafayette), State Sen. Barrow Peacock  (R-Bossier City), and Sen. Jay Luneau (D-Alexandria) — we’ll be nice and not reference Sen. Luneau by Griffon’s nickname for him!

We’ll see what the above crew comes up with (though it would be nearly impossible to top what the crew from last session managed to turn out), how their respective full bodies respond, Gov. Edwards’ action (sign or veto) of any final measure and, possibly, an effort to override Edwards’ veto should one arise.  Who knows, maybe we can even be relied upon to publish something that is “right” in a certain State Senator’s view for once!

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Center for Security Policy’s Holton attributes rise in Antifa to “toxic professors teaching toxic things” to university students.

Christopher Holton, Director of State Outreach at the Center for Security Policy

Christopher Holton, Director of State Outreach at the Center for Security Policy, was the guest speaker at the meeting of the East Baton Rouge Republican Women’s meeting of Thursday, June 25, 2020.  Holton spoke on the topics of Islamic Jihad, “Red” China, Antifa, and Black Lives Matter.  Let’s take a look at what all he had to say:

Holton devotes the smallest amount of time in his presentation, ironically, to the subject matter on which he says is his core expertise, Islamic Jihad.

Communist “Red” China was the topic on which Holton spoke the longest.

Arguably the most intriguing topic on which Holton spoke was Antifa, the proliferation for which Holton attributes to “toxic professors teaching toxic things” to university students.  CLICK HERE for The Hayride feature Holton references he wrote which was published the same day of his presentation.

Holton wraps up his presentation by discussing the Black Lives Matter movement.

After concluding his presentation, Holton took questions from the audience and, for those interested in seeing the questions posed and the responses he gave, we encourage watching that segment by clicking here to watch Holton’s presentation in its entirety.

Having said that, we found one response Holton gave regarding university transparency regarding the accepting of foreign funds by those universities to be especially noteworthy because he referenced his encounters with a then-obscure Louisiana State Legislator by the name of John Bel Edwards.  Here’s video where Holton discusses that interaction, and we believe subscribers will find then-Representative Edwards’ commentary (as relayed via Holton) astounding!:

Holton discusses his interaction with then-obscure State Representative John Bel Edwards regarding a transparency bill requiring universities to reveal sources of foreign contributions.

We found this presentation to be the most informative one we’ve ever covered at Sound Off Louiana, and we hope that many of our subscribers will avail themselves of the ability to gain better insight on the matters Holton discussed by viewing the videos we’ve provided above.

If you would like to be added to our Sound Off Louisiana email list to be notified of future posts, simply go to our home page and scroll to the bottom (mobile devices) or to the top of the right-hand column (desktops).  Supply your email address within the subscribe box.  You’ll then receive an automated email from Word Press, and all you have to do is click on the blue “confirm follow” bar contained within that email, and you’ll begin receiving great posts such as the preceding one above.

Approximately 200 Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) activists gather at Angola Prison to advocate for prisoner releases per Gov. Edwards’ alleged commitment.

Norris Henderson, Executive Director of VOTE, who spent 27 years, 10 months, and 18 days at Angola State Prison for a crime which he did not commit.

As most people are aware, yesterday (June 19th, 2020) was Juneteenth, which marks an official celebration of the liberation of African Americans from slavery.

Yesterday was also the day in which approximately 200 activists affiliated with Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) gathered just outside of the gates of Angola to peacefully and professionally voice their sentiments that the prison conditions at Angola in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic are unacceptable.

Presentations were made  by several relatives of current inmates and by previously-incarcerated Angola inmates.  The presentations provide a unique insider’s look at Angola conditions.  Let’s take a look at the gathering from beginning to end (including a two-mile walk from the post office just up the street immediately prior to the beginning of the day’s event):

VOTE-affiliated demonstrators express their sentiments about conditions at Angola State Prison just outside the prison’s gates on Friday, June 19th, 2020.

VOTE is an organization growing in numbers, and it has a very strong following on its Facebook Page.  From that page regarding yesterday’s peaceful demonstration:

We spent Juneteenth at Angola.  On a day where we are supposed to be celebrating freedom, we could not forget our brothers and sisters who are still locked behind bars. Thank you to everyone who marched with us! Many members of the VOTE family spoke truth to power at the gates of Angola with their loved ones locked on the other side. We are still demanding that our officials let out those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19! Join us in action today by calling Governor Edwards at (225) 342-7015.

Sound Off Louisiana was invited to join the gathering by Ms. Belinda Parker-Brown, whom most subscribers will recall is the founder of Louisiana United International.

After the gathering, Parker-Brown and Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns gathered for a few minutes to allow Ms. Brown to voice her frustration regarding Angola Prison conditions and her frustrations with Gov. Edwards.  She contends Edwards has failed miserably to live up to a commitment she claims he made regarding the number of prisoners who would be released from Angola as a safeguarding of prisoner lives in the wake of COVID-19.

Parker-Brown asserts that only about eight percent (8%) of the prisoners scheduled for release have been actually released.  She further does not mince her words in stating in the video below that Gov. Edwards and other top Louisiana State governmental officials have “lied” about that matter .  Let’s now focus in on all that Parker-Brown had to say right after the above demonstration:

Ms. Parker-Brown visits with Burns briefly after the Angola Prison demonstration earlier in the day.  To view the court documents she references, simply Click Here and Click Here.

We took the time to watch the video on VOTE’s homepage, which was professionally done and succinctly explains the organization’s formation and its goals.  We’re going to present that video with this feature as well:

Video on VOTE’s homepage.

We would like to compliment the professionalism and friendliness that the organizers of this event and law enforcement officials (both Angola officials and the West Feliciana Sheriff’s officials) demonstrated yesterday.  In the current environment of riots and mass destruction of public and private property, it was a very welcome experience, and we were honored to have been invited to observe and report upon this event.  The organizers were very well prepared with plenty of ice-cold bottled water.  Further, make no mistake, Burns made use of several bottles both for drinking and literally pouring directly upon his head in a near-futile effort to beat the stifling heat!

Seeing the warmth and hospitality we were shown by the family members of these prisoners makes us at Sound Off Louisiana all the more openly question the appropriateness of recent commentary of 14th JDC Judge David Ritchie as featured in this March 26, 2020 Washington Post article.  Here is a repeat of Ritchie’s commentary:

I want to know what was considered by those who agreed that “under the circumstances” it is a good idea to release the nonviolent prisoners from the [Calcasieu Correctional Center], other than Harry’s email from last week. Who is this intended to help? As we all should know, the members of this particular population are overwhelmingly drug addicts who have the worst hygiene of anyone in the community, other than the mentally ill. Right now, they are realistically quarantined in jail. I assume that none of you called the jail to find out if it was necessary or advisable to take this action, since I called [CCC warden Chris] Domingue and he wasn’t aware of any such contact. He told me that they have implemented protocols to do their best to make sure Corona doesn’t enter the CCC, which includes screening people as they are booked in, not allowing visitors, etc. The drug addicts will be right back out using and stealing and getting rearrested, which is much more likely to introduce the virus into the jail and spread it in the community. I’ll have more to say at the meeting, but it makes no sense at all, if the purpose is supposed to be to prevent the spread of Corona.

For the record, Ritchie refutes the above-linked Washington Post article.  Of course, as long-time Sound Off Louisiana subscribers are aware, Ritchie exhibits little hesitation to place his foot in his mouth on a routine basis, even doing so in open court as he openly lampooned the legal skills of Attorney General Jeff Landry.

If you would like to be added to our Sound Off Louisiana email list to be notified of future posts, simply go to our home page and scroll to the bottom (mobile devices) or to the top of the right-hand column (desktops).  Supply your email address within the subscribe box.  You’ll then receive an automated email from Word Press, and all you have to do is click on the blue “confirm follow” bar contained within that email, and you’ll begin receiving great posts such as the preceding one above.