Louisiana: The State We're In; 863
The funding for the production of Louisiana the state wherein is provided in part by the Ziggler foundation of Jennings and Gulf states utilities helping Louisiana bridge the gap to our energy future. We've all heard it before. If you drink don't drive. Well today the legislature added a new wrinkle to such warnings in this case. If you smoke don't do it in public places. The House Health and Welfare Committee for the first time ever has approved a proposed law that would ban smoking in city halls and courthouses statewide. Good evening I'm Kent Johnson thanks for joining us for Friday's legislative report.
Protection of individual rights that was high on the priority list today at the state capitol as House committees approved two significant bills one would prohibit businesses and companies from making you submit to a polygraph test as a condition of employment. The other would prevent smoking in public places. The test itself cannot tell you whether someone is lying or not. Representative Jack Scott's lie detector bill was strongly backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Scott argued that no one should be forced to take a polygraph test in order to get a job or keep a job. ACLU officials told committee members that people all over the state have been virtually blackballed from getting employment because they failed a lie detector test. A psychologist testified that there are many reasons for not passing a polygraph stress anger frustration all of those can make it seem as if a person is lying when in reality they're not. You know a fair amount of the research that's been done including Office of Technology Assessment. Research by the federal government there just is no indication
that the polygraph test is used in employment screening is a valid instrument determined to determine whether somebody is honest or not. The biggest problem is what's called a false positive a fact where a significant number of innocent people are mis classified as as deceptive. And we actually have some people here today to talk about having flunked the test and either being fired from jobs that they've been working or being denied jobs that they were applying for as a result of the test. This is nothing but a felon's rights bill the way we see it. The polygraph is I safety net. Many small business people don't have any other recourse against the worst offenders. We can ask somebody if they committed murder or right or molested a child or any other serious crime under this week. You can't take away our right to use whatever methods we see fit to determine whether or not our employees are criminals.
Now after listening to the debate the house Labor Committee voted 8 to 6 to prohibit mandatory polygraph testing as an employment practice. Afterward ACLU officials called it a major victory in protecting individual rights. There are a significant number of innocent people who are mis classified as deceptive on the polygraph test simply because it is so unreliable and so unreliable in fact that courts will not allow it to be accepted as evidence in court. And therefore employers shouldn't be free either to be able to refuse to hire or to fire people on the basis of tests which are so scientifically invalid. We think that the lie detector test is the equivalent of a mental strip search. It's a violation of any one's concept of personal privacy and human dignity. And that's particularly so because there is no limitation on the kinds of questions that can be asked of people who are forced to take polygraph test for employment. You can be asked questions about your personal habits about your political beliefs about your personal health not very long ago I got a call from a woman who was
applying for a job as a paralegal and she was forced to take a polygraph test and one of the questions that was asked was whether or not she had ever engaged in certain sexual activities. That question was asked for a job as a paralegal. Certainly it has nothing to do with her qualifications for that job. She was very humiliated by it very upset by it. But to answer the question in order to get the job and so she did so we are unable to. Really determine on the basis of all of the physiological responses the differences between those responses when they are caused by say anger or when they are caused by fear. What you have in the polygraph situation is the assumption that when there are large responses that are caused by the fear that the individual has been caught lying that's not always the case. Far too often the case is that the response is the large responses physiologic responses that are occurring during the questioning have to do with other things. So perhaps anger at being
investigated in the first place. Or perhaps fear of being caught. Even though you're innocent. Now another key bill which also involves the protection of individual rights. Prohibit smoking in public places. It was approved today by the House Health and Welfare Committee. The vote was 6 to 3. Ironically just last year the same bill was killed by the same committee. But this year bill sponsor Representative John Johnson of New Orleans agreed to an amendment exempting stadiums from the no smoking law. All other public buildings such as city halls parish office buildings and state and federal courthouses for example would be included in the smoking prohibition. The single most important unregulated air pollution problem in the state results from the burning of tobacco products indoors. Besides strange book Smokey is considerably more toxic than the smoke that's inhaled by the smoker for a number of reasons and I see no moral or practical distinction between the kind of exposure that occurs as a result of pollution belching from
industrial smoke stacks and pollution coming from cigarettes in an enclosed space. I see no practical distinction and I think there should be no legal distinction. Now has the smokers are suing all over the country in winning. There's too much proof now that shows it passes smoking is dangerous to the nonsmoker Celt Lousiana. It's lost a lot of money with this best I consider as to smoking to be the Spencers of the future and I think that we will lose a lot to lose a lot of money if we do not have a looks if we do not allow smoking and you want to have to enforce it the nonsmoker on forms that you depend on them to enforce it is gone. The legislation is not to minimize. And without any problem they had let us for years they want to let the doctors in the building. No problem no real problem.
Well it's not over yet. That vow today by Superintendent of Education Tom Clawson who apparently isn't willing to give up his job without a fight. Yesterday the House narrowly approved a bill providing for an appointive superintended but an amendment to the bill will force one last showdown in the Senate. It's who had the biggest stick yesterday and obviously the governor did and it's just kind of like a little boy walking home of fourth grade and he's got a seventh grader down the street it's pretty mean it's waiting to give him a whipping. And what's what's happened I've been at fourth grade and I've had enough that I want to go that way but that's the only way I could go to get home. And I've taken my weapons from the government. But it's time to look at some things and if we can mend some fences we will if we can't then we'll pick up a stick fighting to the bitter enemy we fight every bill that we can in a way to lobby for to see that we can win and that's what I'll be doing I'll be working to see if we can kill a bill because this is a bad bill for the people of Louisiana. And I don't think the impact is really been felt by the voting public as yet that a lot of people
back home think that you know they don't have the right to vote on this amendment on this bill and they really don't. And this is the disappointing fact about the whole thing is all the good government boys that feel like they are doing a good job pretty much afraid to let this go back to the people they have the people who make that decision because every poll that they take have taken back home indicates that the people would like to keep the job elected. First the Senate defeated the bill only to reverse itself the next day at the urging of Governor Edwards than the House did exactly the same thing. Yesterday the vote was 71 to 31. Just one vote more than the 70 votes or two thirds majority needed for passage in the previous vote on Wednesday. The bill fell short by four votes. One of those having a change of heart was Representative Harry Kember of White Castle. Initially he said he voted against the bill because he was angered by intensive lobbying by big business interests. After carefully looking at it I shouldn definitely not against
the importance of it and so I just forget about that and we're going to vote the first. Did you receive any pressure from Governor Edwards. No I didn't I did get a phone call. He said Can you change it. It was an early conversation with the guy John Hank on the House floor said somewhat tongue in cheek that you better go ahead and pass a bill because its cost the state about six million dollars already in trade offs. Was there a lot of wheeling and dealing going on. Possibly again a lot lower and maybe they haven't as of yet but if it affected we'll probably get into that sort of. But it did not take place on the ticket. There's one five Governor Edwards is staying out of today Representative Jack Scott began his push for a bill that would do away with the controversial certificate of need program for hospitals and nursing homes. The governor of course was indicted recently by a federal grand jury
for allegedly using his influence to try to obtain certificates of need for friends and business partners. Representative Scott called it a useless program that only drives up costs and is subject to political abuse. If anything a program elimination of 11 22 is going to improve and increase the availability of medical care is in. There is no conceivable way in which it could decrease medical care can only provide for additional medical medical care for people. I think it will also hold on the cost of medical care because I think it will it will put infuse some much needed competition in the medical care business because I think that if you have one hospital and another hospital near the town and the comparative rates people go with and get the best medical care for the most responsible price tag. You know if it was totally private sector then I would say you know maybe the strongest hospital survivor made the strongest nursing home survivor the strongest group. But it's not totally private dollars there are lots of taxpayers dollars involved. Even if you repeal
the eleven twenty two which this bill would do the hospitals would still according to your testimony be in line in automatic fashion to receive the reimbursement so you know without any one also without any control at all. I mean we may have a free for all between hospitals with hospitals closing and opening in some communities the small communities would lose their home as well as you anticipate because small hospitals couldn't compete with one. I mean hospitals can't compete. Like a private business can be just because the nature of their business. Let me help you just a little bit and there's no reason to expect a sudden free for all. And I'm in the hospital industry in this state. From that standpoint not from over construction not from more construction taking place and putting people out of business for that reason. We already have the situation right now where we're overbuilt in hospitals. So I have to to to to to think that this bill and the limitation 11:22 program is going to bring about that type of store more hospitals being built at a time when it's not when it's a questionable undertaking even now
I think is most unlikely thing we would be depriving those people who already have their hospitals have anything after listening to both sides of this sensitive issue. The House Health and Welfare Committee deferred action on the bill killing it for this session. That same committee deferred action on another bill today but it's still very much alive. Representative Weldon Russell of Amy wants to establish minimum standards for ambulance care. His bill ran into some trouble this morning. So it was put on the back burner in hopes of working out a compromise. Everyone seemed to agree that something must be done to upgrade ambulance service around the states. Well can in the 40s and 50s all you need really to drive an ambulance was a first aid card. Things have changed since then with all of the hazardous waste and materials all the increased frequency of accidents we need people who are qualified. We need more than one person on an ambulance that is qualified right now there's no requirement for that and what the bill would do it would upgrade emergency medical services in the state to include certified people more than one on average at least two so that when you're driving to the hospital and
with an ambulance you have a patient there that patient can be cared for right now as it exists someone could drive to the hospital with an ambulance with someone in the ambulance and that person could die for lack of a second qualified person there administering the proper medical techniques necessary to keep that person alive. Costco's the Department of Health Human resources right now through the vocational schools is offering numerous emergency medical technician courses to the public. And there is no cost other than the books. And that's a very minimal price. Also as far as a cost of your ambulance bill goes the EMT has a minimum wage person at this time and anyone employed by their services would have to be minimum wage anyway. So really from your standpoint we need to upgrade the service Yes so the amount of lives that could be saved because of having skilled personnel on board would be tremendous. It's very similar to if you wanted to go to the if you went to the hospital for heart surgery
you're not going to let a dentist do the work on you. The House Health and Welfare Committee also tackled another big concern today this one over care of the severely disabled. Laura Myers has more now on that story. Can severely disabled citizens won a victory today. A House committee voted to authorize a test program to allow severely handicapped people to hire a personal care attendant with state funds. The program would initially test 50 handicapped people throughout the state. The intent of the bill is to allow these special citizens a chance to have someone help them with daily personal care that would give them the option of deciding not to go to a nursing home. The bill's author says the program would initially cost the state some money but ultimately the state would rate positive benefits. West Monroe representative Evelyn Blackman's bill would allow severely handicapped people to participate in a test pilot program 50 selected
disabled citizens would be allowed to hire fire and recruit and evaluate personal care helpers. The Department of Health and Human Resources would provide a subsidy for them to hire the attendants for 14 to 40 hours a week. What I hope you will see today is that people such as these I have here are capable of in many cases making a living and being self-sustaining if they have some hail paid home to prepare them for work and help them get by air and then help them in their return. Personal care includes helping a handicapped person dress and prepare food for example help with just about anything the disabled person can do entirely for himself or in the U.S.A. Today if one is severely disabled and family support services and no longer provide at home care. The only alternative offered by the state for such a person with
severe physical impairment is a nursing home. One woman told the House Health and Welfare Committee she contacted polio at age 17. She was a homecoming queen and high school cheerleader. And actually I suppose I look as I might be able to get out of the wheelchair but I really can't in fact I can't even left my arm of my head to scratch the top of it and dive as far as my right arm and the other two legs I can't move them that much more you know. And yet in spite of this with attendant care to help me in the morning and in the evening I can function relatively normally. I can either be a productive contributing person to society or are without the how I'm going to be a drain on it. And I really don't think I belong in a nursing home with the state facing the overwhelming task of balancing the state's precarious budget. Some legislators raise concerns about the program's cost. The Legislative Fiscal
office says the cost to the state is three hundred twenty four thousand dollars for the total program minus one hundred fifty five thousand saved by not providing nursing home beds. Under federal total 19 for a net cost to the state of one hundred sixty nine thousand dollars. The bill's author says the state will end up saving money and other valuable assets because with help many of these severely handicapped people can work and become productive taxpaying citizens. And you have to take into consideration that when you can take people out of nursing homes that are young people where they are only exposed to elderly people and put them in an independent living situation there's no way to measure it. The kind of service we've done for those people yesterday for the first time a bill mandating kindergarten throughout the state passed the House Education Committee. With us tonight to discuss mandatory kindergarten are two representatives with opposing views representative bfr Neal of Shreveport and Representative John
Johnson of New Orleans. Yesterday in committee an amendment was attached to this bill the require in that oath is a Stern could pass a screening test and they would not have to return kindergartners out of an attempt to water down this bill. I think it is. And of course with with the amendment says to deny those children who would often airily be going to kindergarten the educational experience that they would have in that environment to receive the training in and the kind of experiences and exposures that they will get in working with the children and with teachers. One of the things that we certainly need to start doing at a very early age is start preparing children in the public school system and the private school system to meet the challenge of education do in their later years and if they start in kindergarten at an early age you can't do anything but facilitate their learning experiences throughout their educational experience.
Mr. Neal how do you feel about that. I'm an advocate of the amendment. I was glad to see that it passed. I believe in opportunity and freedom. I think that every youngster in Louisiana ought to have the opportunity to go to kindergarten if it would be good for them in the judgment of their parents. The advocates of this bill really believe in compulsion and regimentation. I don't see any reason at all why the state should think that it's smarter than parents. I believe the children belong to parents and not to the state. I think it's the parent's right to decide if their child attends kindergarten and at what age they begin kindergarten. You know all children do not develop at the same rate. Some are not ready for a group environment at age 5 and they can be damaged psychologically for if they are put in that group environment. I'm a strong advocate of opportunity and in a state of Lousiana Now every school system does offer kindergarten. It does not compel every youngster to attend kindergarten. I do not believe in compulsion by the state or
regimentation. And that's what the bill does. Well raise IANA has a tradition of being a little backward perhaps in terms of education reform. And yet there are only 16 states that have mandatory kindergarten and school districts. Mr. Johnson you're a teacher. What's your view on that. Well there's only one other state that has a that has a an educational system that is worse and that Louisiana's education system. I don't I don't necessarily disagree with Mr. position relative to parental involvement I've been an advocate of parental involvement now for many many years since I was teaching in elementary school and high school. The problem is that there are an awful lot of parents quite frankly who who are just not equipped to determine whether or not a child should be going to screw at a certain age because. There are an awful lot of very fine psychological type of problems that you encounter in trying to determine whether
or not a child has as a particular educational problem or a heroin problem or a speech problem at a very very young age and if you're not able to get those children in an environment at a young age and test them and determine what deficiencies they have in order to try and facilitate those deficiency the child can be damaged for life educationally and and in every other way the child can be damaged for life and that is one of the reasons why it is extremely important for those of us who are sensitive and concerned about the educational plight in this state to do everything that we can possibly do to help children start off at a very young age. Receiving the kind of education experiences that they're entitled to in this state. Mr. O'Neil some people were saying yesterday that the bill that passed the House committee because of the amendment would be perhaps discriminatory against underprivileged children how do you feel about that. How could it possibly be discriminatory if the opportunity is there
for the youngsters to go to school if their parents choose to to send them to school they have both opportunity and freedom to make a decision. How can you possibly discriminate against under privileged children by good granting them opportunity. In fact the bill might be very discriminatory against those who do not choose to go to kindergarten who do not wish to go to kindergarten and for whom kindergarten would be a disadvantage. Why should we compel them to be in an environment that is not in their best interest the home environment. Now there are mothers that work in and for them kindergarten might have attractions that it does not for mothers who do not work. But if a mother is at home with her children the child is probably in the best environment they can be in at very early and very tender ages. I would just suggest that if compulsion in attendance was good and if the system of public schooling were good we'd have a great system of education in American Lousiana we have compulsory attendance at age 6. Every child must go to
school. People advocated that so they would have an educated population in America. But what is the result of compulsory attendance and public education in America. A Nation at Risk. We have almost 40 percent of the youngsters in state of Lousiana do not graduate from high school. Of those who do a very substantial percentage of functional illiterates. Now the concept of compulsory education in a public school system certainly hasn't been successful for them. We rank low among all of the states in America and Louisiana and America and the level of educational achievement ranks quite low among the nations of the world. Mr. Johnson what about mothers who perhaps themselves don't have a lot of higher education. Well that's that's exactly one of the problems that we that we're discussing here today and I think I think that is one of the areas that Mr. O'Neill fails to realize and fails to take into consideration there are any number of parents
in this state who are just as I've indicated who are just not equipped to determine whether or not a child should be in screw at a particular age. You've got children who are having children you've got babies who are who are having babies. And that is a major problem that it's true that you've got a very high dropout rate in the state of Louisiana one of the highest in the nation. But I think that has come from a lack of trying to develop and put forth a competent comprehensive strategy to deal with education in the state of Louisiana. If you listen to the to the logic of the argument. That Mr. O'Neill is is make and he's attempting to say that because we live in a free society and nobody believes stronger in America and the American way of life than I. But if you listen to the argument that he's advancing and he would say that because we live in a
free society if the person wants to practice law if the person wants to practice medicine because this country is free that person should be permitted to do so. You know that's that's that's how far I would take the argument that you are attempting to advance you and I are get have Mr. Johnson you know it is only in a day I do not argue that if it is in the best interest if it is in the best interests of the child to start preparing that child at an early age. Then us a state representative asked a state representative. I have a responsibility to make sure that that will receive the kind of experience and the kind of exposure in an education environment that he or she is entitled to. Gentlemen thanks for being our guest this evening. Can Back to you Laura it was a history making week at the state capitol yesterday of course the House of Representatives approved a bill making the superintendent of education a point of
rather than elective. The House also said yes to mandatory seat belts and yes to repeal of the state's prevailing wage law. The House committee also approved a Mediterranean kindergarden in public schools. Meanwhile over in the Senate a committee okayed a bill allowing the governor to appoint all Bessie board members but senators turned thumbs down on a package of workers compensation reform measures as well as a bill prohibiting cities from an acting local income taxes or earnings taxes. Like the House the Senate also approved mandatory kindergarten. That's our show for tonight will be back again on Monday. For everyone here in Louisiana Public Broadcasting Thanks for watching and have a safe weekend. Goodnight. Funding for the production of the state is provided in by the
nation the state helping Louisiana bridge the gap to live energy future.
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