How the nursing home lobby plans to sidestep tort reform blockade | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How the nursing home lobby plans to sidestep tort reform blockade

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2015 at 3:06 PM

Why, you ask, does the nursing home lobby hold an open house for lunch and cocktails in a Capitol Hill apartment most days the legislature is in session? Aren't they already well taken care of with profitable reimbursement rates, thanks to the bed tax, and haven't they stocked the judiciary with judges elected with their campaign contributions?

Yes and yes. But they want still more. They particularly want "tort reform" — or much tougher hurdles for people who sue nursing homes for negligence.

The Democratic Party, though now in a small minority, threw a wrinkle into this effort by nabbing four of the eight seats on the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee, which — jointly with the House committee — decides three constitutional amendments for the general election ballot. In 2013, an alliance between trial lawyers and Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson killed a tort reform amendment.

The outlook wasn't good after committee positions were drawn. But the nursing home lobby is at work today, I'm told, building support for a rules change that would alter the procedure for the joint committee that decides amendments. Those rules were filed today and currently contain the old language — no amendment can go to the ballot without a majority vote from both the House and Senate contingents on the joint committee. I'm seeking the proposed language that is being proposed to get around this roadblock, but I'm told lobbying is underway in the hallways this afternoon.

Today is the deadline for filing constitutional amendments.

At least 21 proposals have been field so far, including several aimed at seizing legislative control of rules governing civil lawsuits. Voter ID amendments were filed today as was an amendment to end the fiscal legislative session for a return to biannual sessions. Given the time wasted on trivia in this year's regular session, limiting the regular session to 60 days (unless extended by two-thirds vote) seems a little over generous.

UPDATE: Here's the deal. Under current rules, already adopted in the Senate, all constitutional amendments go to the joint committee, where a majority of each chamber is necessary for approval. But, the House and Senate can vote to extract a bill from committee. This isn't done often, but it can be done. For a regular bill, it requires only a majority vote. For amendments referred to the joint committee, a two-thirds vote is required. Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, the chief advocate for the chamber of commerce's tort reform amendment, wants the joint rules recalled from the House committee where they are pending so they may be changed to allow extraction by a simple majority. His wishes have slowed approval of the joint rules as written.

The committee system is inviolate unless it needs to be violated.

I wrote earlier — and at least one reader strongly disagreed — that the nursing home lobby should and would lie  low this session because of the Judge Mike Maggio scandal, in which he admitted taking a bribe to throw a nursing home case. But the intermediary on the money he took from a nursing home owner is walking the halls as a lobbyist and the nursing homes are wining and dining legislators with impunity nearly every day in utter contempt of Amendment 94, not to mention the public.

Sad days. Sad when the leadership allows it.

PS — I originally lumped the chamber of commerce equally with the nursing home lobby in this effort. Two sources put the major blame on the nursing home lobby, though Williams is definitely a mover in the roadblock to approval of the Senate rules as written and he's been carrying Chamber of Commerce water on this issue for years. Nursing homes are more interested in caps on damages; the chamber is more interested in structural changes, particularly taking rule-making authority away from the court.

Tags: ,

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Where's the outrage?

    Am I the only person, apart from federal prosecutors, outraged about the criminal enterprise that inveigled itself into a privileged position as an Arkansas taxpayer-financed human services provider to the tune, today, of $43 million a year?
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Where's the outrage?

    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Rutledge opponent hits her socializing with corporate interests

    Mike Lee, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, has criticized Attorney General Leslie Rutledge over recent reports of her participation at private meetings where corporate interests make big contributions to a political group she heads for access to state legal officers.
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas Supreme Court refuses to rehear invalidation of marijuana act

    The Arkansas Supreme Court today denied a request to rehear its decision invalidating Issue 7, the medical marijuana initiated act.
    • Nov 3, 2016
  • Arkansas legislature rejects bipartisan effort to study race relations

    On Friday, the Arkansas Legislative Council soundly rejected a bipartisan effort by two senators to to create a temporary legislative subcommittee to study race relations in the state.
    • Sep 15, 2017
  • Trump immigration protest at LR: Quick and fierce

    It was not even 24 hours ago that Sophia Said, director of the Interfaith Center; City Director Kathy Webb and others decided to organize a protest today of Donald Trump's executive order that has left people from Muslim countries languishing in airports or unable to come to the US at all — people with visas, green cards,a  post-doc graduate student en route to Harvard, Google employees abroad, families. I got the message today before noon; others didn't find out until it was going on. But however folks found out, they turned out in huge numbers, more than thousand men, women and children, on the grounds of the state Capitol to listen to speakers from all faiths and many countries.
    • Jan 29, 2017

Most Recent Comments



© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation