PTSD would be added to the list of injuries eligible for public employee benefits under bill

Rep. Kenny R. Cox, D-Natchitoches, commented Thursday, May 16, 2019, on a bill that would provide mental health benefits to public workers. (Photo credit: Madeline Meyer, LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: May 16, 2019

By: Lauren Heffker, LSU Manship School News Service

In a move to address mental illness among firefighters and police officers, a House committee advanced a bill Thursday that would add post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, to the list of injuries eligible for public employee benefits.

The Senate had already approved the bill, and it now moves to the House floor.

“In the old days, we said ‘suck it up, buttercup,’ and ‘man up,’ and that became not really a good coping skill to teach people,” said Sen. Ryan Gatti, R-Bossier, who sponsored the bill.

Members of the House Labor Committee discussed the bill in an emotional hearing during which several public servants and employees spoke about their mental health problems.

“Our numbers are rising,” said Matt Kinney, who works for the Bossier City Fire Department. “Our firefighters and police officers are dying. They don’t have the support or the means that they need.”

Read more in The Advocate.

Team Gleason Foundation license plate, helping fund research on ALS, moving one step closer

Son of a Saint had a fundraising dinner in the Audubon Nature Institute on April 17, 2019. (Photo credit: Daniel Erath)

Published: May 16, 2019

By: Hunter Lovell, LSU Manship School News Service

A state Senate committee gave the green light to create Team Gleason Foundation license plates to help former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason raise money to fight the neuromuscular disease ALS.

The Senate Committee on Transportation advanced the bill on Thursday.

Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, sponsored House Bill 318, which would require a $25 annual royalty fee that would be forwarded to the foundation.

The license plate would honor Gleason and help fund the foundation’s research, which seeks to “provide cutting-edge technology to people who are living with this horrible disease,” Leger said.

Gleason has been a vocal leader in the fight against ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, since his own diagnosis in 2011. He and his wife started the foundation to support those living with ALS.

Read more in The Advocate.

Protesters pour fake blood in Capital Building as La. lawmakers debate Fetal Heartbeat Bill

Abortion rights advocates poured fake blood on the floors of Memorial Hall at the state Capital. (Photo credit: Hunter Lovell, LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: May 15, 2019

By: Lauren Heffker and Tryfon Boukouvidis, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE- Legislation that would limit or ban abortion in Louisiana easily cleared House and Senate committees on Wednesday (May 15), echoing a surge of similar bills in Republican-controlled legislatures in the South.

The House Health and Welfare Committee advanced a controversial proposal to outlaw the abortion of a fetus with a detectable heartbeat, which usually occurs around six weeks.

The “fetal heartbeat” bill, sponsored by Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, has received bipartisan support and was approved last week by the Senate. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a pro-life Democrat running for re-election, has publicly supported it.

In March, Edwards said he would be inclined to sign the bill into law.

“States across the nation are saying, ‘We are no longer going to devalue life,” Milkovich said. “We are going to acknowledge the sanctity of human life.’”

Read more in FOX8Live.

House and Senate committees create new opioid treatment facilities

State Senator Fred Mills, R-Parks, right, chaired a committee hearing Wednesday, May 15, 2019, on bills to regulate opioid treatment facilities. (Photo credit: Tryfon Boukouvidis, LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: May 15, 2019

By: Tryfon Boukouvidis and Lauren Heffker, LSU Manship School News Service

State House and Senate committees advanced bills that would address the opioid crisis by creating new treatment facilities in Louisiana and allowing alternative treatment methods.

Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge, sponsored House Bill 250 that would require residential treatment facilities to give patients with opioid-use disorders access to medication that would block the opioid effect.

Before advancing Davis’ bill, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee amended it to delay enforcement of the change until 2021. This would allow the treatment facilities more time to adjust.

Currently, the majority of residential treatment providers in the state do not offer any form of medication-assisted treatment to patients with opioid addictions.

The committee members appeared sympathetic to the cause of the bill.

“It’s not a character flaw,” said Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, referring to opioid users. “When someone starts talking about it as a character flaw, I’m just wondering what century they are from as far as catching up with medicine.”

Read more in The Advocate.

Bill may bring Uber, Lyft to all corners of Louisiana

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Local community and business leaders gathered at the Central Louisiana Regional Chamber of Commerce to discuss legislation that could allow ride-sharing companies, like Uber and Lyft, to operate throughout Louisiana. (Photo credit: Melissa Gregory)

Published: Apr. 25, 2019

By: Trey Couvillion, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — Popular ridesharing apps Uber and Lyft might soon pick up passengers in all corners of the state, as legislators advanced a bill Tuesday that would expand the services statewide.

The proposed legislation, authored by Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, would expand services of Uber, the industry’s leader, and Lyft, the second-largest rideshare app beyond some of the state’s biggest cities.

The Department of Transportation and Development would have authority to regulate the industry on a statewide level while not disturbing the rules set by some cities.

The House Transportation Committee debated the bill for more than an hour, with lawmakers stressing the importance of consistent vetting processes and arguing about whether DOTD reviews of drivers’ records should make them public.

A similar bill, proposed by House Speaker Rep. Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, was struck down in the Senate last year. The current bill requires DOTD to review, but not obtain, a sample of records provided by the ride-hailing companies.

In February, a woman was reportedly sexually assaulted in Baton Rouge when she got into the vehicle of someone who was impersonating a rideshare service. In 2018, a fake rideshare driver demanded money from LSU’s students at knifepoint.

Read more in the Shreveport Times.

Bill proposes end to Louisiana’s ‘tampon tax’

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Sen. Jean-Paul J. Morrel, D-New Orleans (Photo credit: Sarah Gamard, LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: Apr. 22, 2019

By: Hunter Lovell, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE- Louisiana lawmakers signaled support for legislation that would exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products, including tampons, from state sales tax.

The so-called “tampon tax” or “diaper bill” is back on the radar. The bills were filed by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, who received a lot of pushback in 2017 when he introduced similar proposals.

Both bills — one to exempt the products from state tax and the other to give local government the option to exempt them from local taxes — are co-sponsored by Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans.

Low-income families and poor people often struggle to afford health and wellness products, which are currently taxed at the regular rate.

“There are moms that can’t afford diapers,” Morrell said. “They have to go basically to a food bank for diapers to provide diapers for their children. Diapers are expensive, and if you’re paying 30 to 40 bucks for a large pack of diapers, you’re paying $3 to $4 of tax on top of that. For some of these low-income families that makes or breaks the bank.”

Read more in WBRZ.

Gov. Edwards testifies before the House committee on bill to protect LA residents with pre-existing health conditions

Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks to the press at a luncheon hosted by the Louisiana Press Association at the City Club in Baton Rouge. (Photo credit: Madeline Meyer, LSU Manship School News Service)

Published: Apr. 25, 2019

By: Lauren Heffker and Madeline Meyer, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards testified before a House committee Wednesday in support of a bill that would protect 850,000 state residents with pre-existing conditions if the federal Affordable Care Act is repealed.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, is part of Edwards’ legislative package and would prohibit discrimination against health insurance applicants due to pre-existing problems.

“This is not the political thing to do,” Brown said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Brown also proposed an amendment that would keep his bill from taking effect if the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is completely overturned in court. If the federal act is partially invalidated in a way that strips protections of pre-existing conditions but leaves the subsidies in place, the bill would go into effect.

Without federal funding, protections for pre-existing conditions could lead to millions of dollars in premium increases. If Brown’s bill does not pass or if the subsidies are not there, no protections would be guaranteed.

The committee deferred voting on the bill, which would not have an impact on state revenues or spending.

Edwards said that while the bill is not a perfect substitute for current provisions in federal law, it deserved bipartisan support. “It seeks to protect those portions of the Affordable Care Act that just about everybody believes in,” he said.

Read more in the Bossier Press-Tribune.