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Prospects for tort reform dim as Louisiana session enters home stretch | Louisiana

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Steve Wilson | – 2024-05-30 14:21:00

(The Center Square) – With the Louisiana legislative session in its final days, a package of tort reform measures designed to help lower property and auto insurance rates remains in a holding pattern.

Business groups are concerned that the package of legislation championed by Insurance Commissioner Tim Temple is stuck in limbo. 

In a statement released by his office, Temple urged Landry and lawmakers to act on the package.

“Our state remains mired in a crisis of availability and affordability in the auto insurance market,” Temple said. “With only a few days left in this legislative session, there has not been significant legislation enacted to address this issue.

“My package of auto insurance reform legislation was designed as a substantial first step to promote competition in the private passenger and commercial auto markets by creating more transparency and balance in our legal system. This will allow Louisiana's legal system to operate more like the states we are competing with to attract insurance companies on a daily basis.”

Will Green, the president and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, says the state's litigation climate is one of the top obstacles to not only encouraging new businesses to relocate to the Pelican State, but existing ones wanting to expand. He cited Florida's tort reform initiative as one Louisiana officials could emulate.

“We're not necessarily a stable market and so we can't keep trying to tackle our insurance crisis with watered-down, siloed versions of bills and if we keep doing that, it's like I say it's like treating a bullet wound with a Band-Aid,” Green told The Center Square. “What we do know is that look at states like Florida most recently passing comprehensive packages of bills, to put them in line with other states to send a message that ‘hey, we're back open for business, you can come right here with some certainty some predictability and some confidence.' And so that's what we're trying to do.”

Several of those bills are still awaiting a decision from Gov. Jeff Landry.

Rep. Michael Melerine, R-Shreveport, sponsored House Bill 423, that was passed 68-25 by the Senate in an amended form. The so-called “collateral source” bill modifies awards in cases with recoverable medical expenses. 

House Bill 337 is sponsored by Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro, and it would ban the practice of direct action, a legal practice where a claim is placed against an insurance company and not the policyholder.

It passed both chambers unanimously in amended form and awaits the governor's decision. 

Also awaiting a possible signature or veto is Senate Bill 84 by Sen. Alan Seabaugh, R-Many, that would add a motion for judgment on an offer of judgment in a civil case.

HB315 by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Pineville, would changes prescriptive periods for tort actions from one to two years. 

Another business group concerned with the lack of progress on the tort reform front is the state's loggers association. 

Toni McAllister is the executive director of the Louisiana Loggers Association and owner of the McManus Timber Company. She said she's hopeful that lawmakers will “enact meaningful reforms to keep our industry alive in Louisiana.”

“The current Legislature should provide a conducive environment for legal and insurance reforms – but these bills have either been left in the Senate Judiciary A Committee or amended to decrease their effectiveness,” McAllister told The Center Square. “Is Louisiana really ‘open for business' like everyone is saying? That is certainly not the case for commercial haulers.”

Another key measure is not likely to make it out of the Senate. 

HB336 is sponsored by Rep. Emily Chenevert, R-Baton Rouge, and is known as the Litigation Financing Disclosure Act. The measure passed 84-17 but was paused by the Judiciary A Committee earlier this month.

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The Center Square

Federal judge issues temporary injunction stopping Biden’s Title IX rules | National

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Steve Wilson | – 2024-06-13 17:00:00

(The Center Square) — A federal judge issued an injunction on Thursday that put a temporary hold on new Title IX rules issued by the Biden administration.

U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty issued the order in a lawsuit brought by the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana and Idaho. The injunction keeps the final rules from going into effect pending a review by the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Louisiana. 

The new rules finalized by the Department of Education and which are supposed to go into effect Aug. 1 expand the definition of sex discrimination to include gender identity and pregnancy, but the agency didn't issue any rules relating to transgender athletes. Among the changes include a prohibition on single-sex bathroom and locker rooms and requirements that a school use pronouns based on a student's preferred gender identity.

Doughty said in the order that the new rule violated the free speech and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment along with the spending clause and “is arbitrary and capricious.”

The judge also said in his ruling that for one of these injunctions to be issued, the plaintiffs must show a substantial chance of success on the merits of their case, a threat of irreparable harm that must outweigh any that would result if the injunction weren't issued and it must be in the public interest. Doughty said the plaintiffs did so successfully. 

Doughty also said that the plaintiffs were able to prove that the harassment standard created by the rule is contrary to Title IX and he said they “made compelling arguments for how it can violate the free speech right of the First Amendment.”

Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill, who brought the Title IX lawsuit, praised the ruling. 

“This a victory for women and girls,” Murrill said in a statement. “When Joe Biden forced his illegal and radical gender ideology on America, Louisiana said NO! Along with Idaho, Mississippi, and Montana, states are fighting back in defense of the law, the safety and prosperity of women and girls, and basic American values.”

Title IX prohibits educational institutions that receive federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex in both educational programs and activities.

Federal courts have already acted against the Biden administration's rules. 

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor granted the state's motion for summary judgement in a case over a mandate issued by two federal agencies before the administration amended Title IX to redefine biological sex to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” 

He also denied the Biden administration's request to dismiss and vacated the guidance nationwide and issued a permanent injunction against its enforcement in Texas.

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The Center Square

Louisiana Supreme Court reverses decision on sex abuse law | Louisiana

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Steve Wilson | – 2024-06-13 14:19:00

(The Center Square) — The Louisiana Supreme Court overturned its previous decision that struck down a 2021 law that gives victims of sexual abuse more time to sue their alleged abusers.

The state's highest court handed down the ruling late Wednesday, which put back into effect the so-called “lookback window” law that passed the Legislature unanimously and was signed into law by then-Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2021. 

Under previous law, the victim had until age 18 to file suit against their alleged abuser. 

The Louisiana Supreme Court has reversed its previous decision which struck down the state's ‘lookback window' law, which passed unanimously through the legislature and was signed by the governor in 2021.

Attorney General Liz Murrill, who filed a rehearing application immediately after that decision was made by the justices to strike down the law, praised the ruling. 

“These child victims of sexual abuse deserve their day in court,” Murrill said in a news release. “This is a win for victims of sexual assault and those who have been silenced for far too long. A great day for Louisiana. It's very rare for the Supreme Court to grant rehearing and reverse itself.

“I'm grateful to the Court for giving such careful attention to an issue that is so deeply troubling and personal for so many victims of abuse.”

In a post to X, the author of the original legislation, Rep. Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans, also praised the decision.

“Today, the LA Supreme Court reversed its previous decision,” Hughes said. “Survivors of child sexual abuse will FINALLY get a chance at justice!”

In the original ruling, the justices had issues with the law due to its retroactive effect and its affect on due process. 

In a dissent, Associate Justice James Genovese wrote “This ruling on rehearing elevates a legislative act over a constitutional right and obliterates the vested right of accrued prescription, which has been precedent in our law for decades.”

He also stressed in his dissent that his opposition to the law was based on its legal ramifications and he was in no way condoning sexual abuse. 

He also wrote that “I am very concerned about this majority ruling on rehearing granting unbridled authority to the legislature to enact legislation which supersedes and tramples our constitution. I find such action to be a violation of the separation of powers doctrine. That is a slippery slope indeed.”

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The Center Square

Louisiana education board approves new accountability standards | Louisiana

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Jacob Mathews | – 2024-06-12 11:21:00

(The Center Square) — The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to approve new accountability standards in schools during a meeting on Wednesday. 

Louisiana Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said the accountability system was necessary for three reasons: To create higher expectations, to make the assessment process simpler and more transparent and to promote career and college readiness.

This agreement comes despite opposition from the Superintendents' Advisory Council during a hearing last week. Two speakers, retired educator Charles Michel and Dr. Lisa Morgan, the principal of LaGrange High School, pleaded against the standards in the LBESE hearing and echoed many of the issues the superintendents had. 

Higher expectations were the primary issue. Although superintendents approved of wanting more out of their students, the grading systems made several superintendents feel their schools would be listed as failing when in reality they were improving.

Despite the heated debate in last week's advisory council hearing and the resistance from outsiders in the LBESE hearing Wednesday, the unanimous vote came with no debate amongst the LBESE members. 

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