Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on lowering car insurance payments:
Haste makes waste, especially in legislating, so Gov. John Bel Edwards reasonably vetoed a major bill on car insurance that had been amended too quickly in its rush to approval in the regular session of the Legislature.
The veto of the so-called Omnibus Premium Reduction Act of 2020 was not unexpected because of a last-minute and poorly worded addition to the complex and multi-faceted measure. The change mistakenly required some plaintiffs — those with modest injuries and their own medical insurance — to receive tens of thousands of dollars more than their injury cost to treat.
Because the Legislature is now in a special session until the end of the month, lawmakers might address the problem in the original bill by Sen. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, by passing a “clean” version.
However, Edwards, a close ally of trial lawyers politically, stated in his veto message that he’s still not a fan of the bill, which he called “neither a compromise nor is it a mandate to decrease rates.”
This is a complex measure, but it at least has the virtue of its provisions having been extensively debated last year. It was derailed in a Senate committee then, after a large majority voted for it in the House.
The bill included technical changes about how civil lawsuits are filed and how courts operate, including more time for lawsuits to be filed. The bill would also lower the amount of damages sought in order to have the case heard by jury instead of a judge from $50,000 to $5,000 for most personal injury cases, called jury threshold; limit medical expenses recovered to the actual payments made, rather than what a health care provider charges, called collateral source; require lawsuits to be filed against the other driver, rather than the insurance company, called direct action; and allow judges and juries to know if the injured plaintiff was not wearing a safety belt.
All this, according to the theory of business supporters, would lower the court costs facing insurers, and thus lead to reductions in car insurance premiums in Louisiana, second only to Michigan in the nation.
The governor says the changes should be accompanied by a mandate for reducing costs, but that was not included in the bill, and probably won’t be during the special session.
While the politics may look dicey for the bill again this year, we believe many of these changes are sensible and reflect the law in other states. There is no single legislative solution to the problem of high insurance rates, but something like the Talbot bill can be part of a long-term fix.
The American Press on the economy:
With all the “doom and gloom” rhetoric being spread around the country from the COVID-19 pandemic, the unexpected positive report about the economy last week was good news indeed.
While there are still plenty of obstacles to overcome, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May Employment Situation report shows that the United States economy added 2.5 million jobs last month and unemployment fell from 14.7 percent to 13.3 percent.
That is still an unacceptably high number, but at least the trend now may be going in the right direction.
In sectors of the labor force, the report showed that employment increased significantly in leisure and hospitality by 1.2 million. In construction, there was a gain of 464,000 jobs; in education, 464,000; retail trade, 368, 000; and manufacturing, 225,000.
According to the U.S. Council of Economic Advisors, these job gains surprised forecasters since many states were only just beginning to reopen their economies during the reports’ survey reference periods.
The council pointed out the rapid job growth as the coronavirus is contained and states opening should not come as a surprise. A poll conducted from April 27 through May 4 asked laid-off workers if they expected to be rehired by their most recent employers after state stay-at-home orders are lifted.
Most laid-off workers (77 percent) said it was likely they would be rehired by their recent employers. This survey result is echoed in May’s employment data, just as CEA explained it in April’s data.
The CEA also noted that beyond workers remaining attached to their employers, another sign that job growth will continue is May’s jump in average weekly hours — indicating pent-up demand. Increasing hours can be a sign that employees, average weekly hours increased by 0.5 to 34.7 hours — the highest level since the series began in 2006. For production and non-supervisory employees, this measure increased by 0.6 to 34.1 hours — the highest level in 19 years.
The stock market reacted with enthusiasm that prosperity may be returning sooner than anybody suspected. Market watchers expect the Federal Reserve is all but guaranteed to keep interest rates at near-zero during its two-day meeting this week. There is also some indication policymakers will consider deploying negative rates.
Another boost to the economy may come from another rescue package in Congress. So, there is every reason to believe the U.S. economy is on the rebound from one of the worst experiences in U.S. history.
The Houma Courier on the new coronavirus:
The past week has seen the coronavirus outbreak pushed off the front page and, perhaps, out of the front of our minds. Attention has focused on ongoing protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd as well as Tropical Storm Cristobal.
But despite the relative lack of attention, COVID-19 has not gone anywhere.
The pandemic is still going, and the threat of infection is every bit as present as it has been for the past three months.
We don’t know if there will be a second wave of infections in the wake of the gradual reopening of the economy, or as a result of the mass demonstrations over the past week, but even in the absence of one there is still cause for concern.
The time has not yet come to abandon wearing masks in public, staying six feet apart from each other or enhanced personal hygiene like frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizer.
It seems like wearing a mask has been caught up in partisan politics, polls indicating that people largely choose whether to do it according to which political party they belong to, and your comments on our Facebook page.
In our currently divided political climate it seems like anything can be a point of partisan contention, but the reality is that the coronavirus does not toe a party line. Everyone, no matter his or her political persuasion, is susceptible to COVID-19 and should do whatever possible and practical to reduce or eliminate the likelihood of getting it.
While it may seem like the virus is old news, it is still here, still infecting people without their knowledge, still being unwittingly spread to those most vulnerable to its effects, still worthy of our diligent attention.
The storm has passed, but the coronavirus has not. We still owe it to our families, neighbors and friends to do whatever we can to control its spread and try to keep our loved ones as safe as we can.