Tort Reform: Why the legislature must return checks and balances to Arkansas government

Tort Reform: Why the legislature must return checks and balances to Arkansas government

I recently had a conversation with a well-respected conservative in AR who is against Tort reform, or Issue 1, on the ballot this November. We were both evenly matched on our reasons for and against, but then he gave me some examples of why he didn’t believe the legislators should have the powers they had given themselves in SJR8. Other than the overreach and antics of some of our judges in the last couple of years I didn’t have examples of why it was important in this proposed amendment so I did some research and… it strengthened my position on this version of tort reform.

For example, I knew that in 2003 Arkansas had passed tort reform, just like Texas (see June 11 blog Tort Reform: Another View, but unlike Texas our Tort reform had been shredded bit by bit by the Arkansas judicial branch. What I learned from my research is that reform returns balance to the three branches lost in 2000 through Amendment 80. For 140 years the legislature had the authority to set judicial rules. Due to some broad interpretations starting in the early ‘70’s by the judicial branch that is no longer true. So what is the harm in that? Here are some examples:

What happened to the reforms of 2003?

  • In 2007, the state Supreme Court struck down the legislature’s medical malpractice reforms as unconstitutional, because it found that the procedure that the legislature had enacted was disallowed.
  • In 2009, the state Supreme Court struck down a procedure that the legislature had proposed to determine fault for parties who were not represented in court
  • In 2012, the Court struck down new rules for the admission of evidence in medical malpractice cases saying they said the legislature should not have/excercise.

So what’s the problem? They are creating PUBLIC POLICY. That is not the function of the judicial system. This subverts the entire intent of separation of powers. Our lawmakers can’t pass legal reforms that would create efficiencies due to the courts broad interpretation of the powers Amendment 80 gives them. Just as we have been frustrated by Federal and Supreme courts interpreting laws to the point of changing and creating them so too have our legislators been frustrated in bringing lasting reform because Arkansas courts stretched their powers into creating the rules. We won’t be able to create lasting reforms of any kind that can’t be thwarted by our judicial branch without this reform to return legislating to the legislators.

It’s like the popular ad: “We know a thing or two because we’ve learned a thing or two.” There were unintended consequences giving the judicial branch the ability to “prescribe, from time to time, rules of pleading, practice, and procedure with respect to any or all proceedings in civil cases in all courts in this state.” Or another familiar saying: Give ‘an inch…..

To learn more about us visit An American Speaks

To learn more about Tort reform go to Arkansans for Jobs and Justice

Tort Reform: Another View

Tort Reform: Another View

Informed choices-the other side of the story on Tort reform by Toni Rose, Co-Founder An American Speaks

In 1987 I had a baby girl in Houston, Texas. She was born a month early, and despite complications, she was delivered at a little over five pounds.

We were lucky at that time in Texas because we lived in Houston, home of one of the greatest medical centers in the world. But Texas had a problem. Texas had a doctor shortage, especially in high risk services such as labor and delivery, neurosurgery and trauma. It had been a problem a long time. I remember my Mom, pregnant with my little brother in a beach community on the Gulf Coast, had to drive to a ferry, cross over to Galveston, and then drive to the hospital to see her ob-gyn and deliver her son. The trip took an hour and a half on a good day.

More than 150 counties had no local obstetrics care, and services were sometimes more than 100 miles away. Physicians were leaving Texas for states that were less litigious or they were quitting medical practice altogether.

By 2003 the exodus of doctors was such a crisis the state of Texas initiated, and passed, tort reform to rein in the the cost of practicing medicine. The landmark reforms created an almost immediate turnaround, starting with pediatric subspecialties increasing 300% in the following ten years.

Emergency doctors in rural areas increased 64%, more than 10 times the growth in those areas. Thirty-five rural counties added at least one ob-gyn, almost half of which never had one. You can find similar stories in more than 30 states that have implemented tort reform.

Issue 1 allows voters in Arkansas to attract more much-needed doctors and health care professionals to our state.

As the co-founder of the conservative Christian organization, An American Speaks, I know first-hand providing no access to needed health services places a value on human life. The value is zero.

In 2012 Mrs. Laurie Wilhelm of rural AR, had enjoyed home births of her previous children, but she started bleeding heavily during the birth of the baby she was carrying at the time. She was rushed to the beautiful new birthing center at the nearby hospital.

The hospital had no ob-gyn on staff. Administrators had been unable to attract or keep the needed doctor because liabilities to practice were too high.

Perhaps if they had she may have been sent her to the better equipped and staffed hospital in Missouri, 80 miles away, by air rather than ambulance.

Laurie bled to death.

Ironically, and more recently, one of the primary sponsors of this bill could have been another victim of rural ob-gyn shortages. His wife’s uterus ruptured, she was bleeding internally and the baby was in severe distress.  Fortunately, after having birthed several babies at home, they had made arrangements to have this baby in Rogers, AR. 45 minutes away and were already at the hospital when it occurred, saving the life of mom and her baby girl. Sadly, to highlight the seriousness of the need for immediate care, an Oklahoma youth pastor’s wife and baby did not fare as well with their similar situation and both died.

A  great champion of the unborn and friend of mine, makes the assertion that tort reform is a pro-life issue. In this case I agree. Laurie Wilhelm, Jessica and their babies prove it.I personally prefer to keep the term “pro-life” with the rights of the unborn. Many issues could be called “pro-life” but let our unborn babies have this one distinction. However, just like our unborn children need care, so, too, do our vulnerable seniors in assisted living and long-term care nursing facilities. These places are home for thousands of Arkansans.

Thousands of women and their unborn children in rural Arkansas are at risk due to the lack of care and the many miles to an ob-gyn, whether a family plans a hospital birth or not.

“Ob/gyns live in fear of being sued,” Jones says. She isn’t kidding: Ob/gyns are the most commonly sued physicians. A 2012 survey from the American Medical Association found that of the approximately 4,000 medical liability lawsuits filed between 2009 and 2011, a full two-thirds involved obstetric care. It’s because of these figures that malpractice insurance is quite high for ob/gyns compared to other practitioners. This not only makes it very expensive to even open an ob/gyn practice, but also harder to recruit more medical students into the profession.

Malpractice reform on the federal level would help, ob/gyns say. A bill passed the House of Representatives in June that would limit noneconomic damages for a malpractice case to $250,000. While some criticize that cap as unfair to patients whose lives have been forever changed by medical malpractice, the American Medical Association president David Barbe called it an “important first step.”

“By redirecting health care spending from defensive medicine, additional dollars can go to patient care, safety and quality improvements, and to health information technology systems that would help improve care and outcomes,” he said in a statement.”

My grandmother lived in a nursing home. My dad spent the last year of his life in a nursing home. My mother is in an assisted living facility. I understand this – spending an extraordinary amount of resources on liability insurance does not help my mother’s facility hire more compassionate caregivers. The money spent on attorneys doesn’t help hire more nurses who are needed throughout the state.

In overall health care, Arkansas ranks 49th of 50 states. Money that could be spent on needed doctors, needed caregivers in hospitals, needed rehabilitation facilities, needed clinics and needed nursing homes is not going toward these things. Funds to improve quality of life often aren’t going where they are needed most, not because the desire to do so isn’t there, but because the requirement to pay exorbitant amounts for insurance is the expensive cost of providing care to those who need it most.

Answer this question: currently in Arkansas you can sue for an un-capped amount, virtually anything you, your attorney and a judge can agree on. How has this helped Arkansas health care ranking? We are the last of the last. Time to consider what has worked in other states, not as the only solution but part of the solution.

An excellent research paper by the Heritage Foundation on the impact of tort reform in Texas can be found at  Ten Years of Tort Reform Texas Just one example they cite:

  • CHRISTUS Health, a not-for-profit Catholic health system with hospitals throughout Texas, saved so much on its liability costs that it expanded its charity care by $100 million per year starting in 2004. Total cost-basis charity care in Texas was $594 million greater in 2006 than it was in 2003.[16] Sister Michele O’Brien of CHRISTUS stated that the expanded charity care is a direct result of the lawsuit reforms

I can cite study after study that shows that exorbitant medical liability costs has harmed patient care. Another one can be found at Does Malpractice Insurance Cost Impact Patient Care

Our organization, An American Speaks, with its mission to protect family values, wholesome communities by raising the conservative Christian voice, strongly supports Issue 1 on the ballot in November. By making Arkansas more inviting to health care professionals our chances are better the next Laurie Wilhelm and her baby have a doctor waiting when she arrives at the hospital. Please inform yourself for the vote in November.

To learn more about An American Speaks, please visit www.anamericanspeaks.com and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about Tort reform and it’s impact on other states visit Arkansans For Jobs and Justice Facebook

 

‘Tis the Season- Getting Ready for Mid-term Elections

…and so are we! November 2018, on one hand, seems forever away. A whole year! But there are people whose term is up and must re-run, perhaps are termed out or have chosen not to run and a new candidate must be selected. There are bills that passed in the House and Senate during session that will go to vote in mid-term. There are also petition drives in order to exercise voter’s local options like the one An American Speaks is involved with right now.

Issue 6, that Arkansas voted into law by a narrow 3% margin, is now Amendment 98 of the Arkansas Constitution. Also known as the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 it contains a little known local option clause that allows counties or municipalities to vote on whether they wish to have a dispensary or grow facility.  Last week An American Speaks filed a Ballot Question Committee Statement of Organization  on behalf of Boone County with the Arkansas Ethics Commission as Counties Against Legalized Marijuana.  It is our intention to work with local churches, civic organizations and local businesses to mount a petition drive to get this option on the ballot next November so Boone County, who voted overwhelmingly against Issue 6, has the option of keeping dispensaries and grow facilities out of their county.

Last Monday, October 9th, we introduced this option to the Carroll County Republican Committee and will be happy to speak with/help any City or County that is interested in doing the same. Almost half the counties in Arkansas voted against this amendment and a number of those that voted “for” passed with a margin of less than 2%.  It is our belief that they should know how to exercise their right in the amendment to not have it in their county or city if they do not want it.

Click here for  AAS Summary Position Statement Medical Marijuana

Click here for Top 10 Pros and Cons of Medical Marijuana

To learn more about us go to An American Speaks Website

and An American Speaks Facebook. 

Follow us on twitter @aamericanspeaks

Contact us at 501-275-0219 or info@anamericanspeaks.com

School Board Elections: Who Wants to Be In Charge of Our Schools?

Next Tuesday, September 19th Arkansas will hold school board elections for all districts in the state.
As most of you know, participation in our local, state and national electoral process is a passion of our organization.  An American Speaks attributes many of the challenging issues facing Americans today to the lack of education regarding issues and then participation on Election Day. While school board elections have traditionally had a low interest among voters, actions of school boards around the country have elevated the interest parents have in who wants to set policy for their children.
With that said, it is the responsibility of every citizen to get informed so that they can make wise decisions and feel comfortable that they are truly voting their values.  But, the responsibility of education and information is a two-way street.
At An American Speaks we believe it is also the duty of candidates and sponsors of initiatives and amendments to make sure the public is properly informed.
This brings us to concerns brought to light during  the 2017 races. While we have heard these issues elsewhere here is a specific example we just experienced.  Due to questions we have received desiring information about the upcoming school board elections in Harrison, we began the process of researching the school board candidates, with the idea that we could share information that would educate and inform the public, and in particular friends and supporters of An American Speaks.  We first contacted the Boone County Clerks office and was directed to the Arkansas Secretary of States website to find out who had registered to run for office.  The next contact via email was to the Harrison School District Administration office where they gave us the names and phone numbers of candidates running for two board seats.  There was no biographical or background information they could share regarding the candidates qualifications or experience.  Our third contact was to our local newspaper to see what information they might have about the candidates and was told there would be Election information in the weekend edition.  The eagerly awaited edition contained only the candidates names.  We then searched social media and placed phone calls to the challenging candidates while attempting to email the incumbents for the purpose of getting background information and answers to our questions.  As of today, three days before the election, we have received no responses.
Our school board is possibly the most important election in our community and to our Nations future, yet there really doesn’t seem to be much information available to concerned voters and parents to make decisions about the people who will be shaping the direction of the schools our children are attending. With easy, free access to social media this seems incomprehensible. Search as we may, and we’re pretty good researchers, we could find no position statements for our candidates or thoughts about why they are running for these positions.
While we applaud each candidate for stepping up to run and willingness to serve,  we encourage them and future candidates to work harder to educate constituents, garner support and encourage participation.
When we are reading about controversial decisions made by school boards nationwide that impact the safety and religious freedom of our young people it is imperative that the public have access to the political philosophy that drives their decision making.
As of today, we can only recommend to those who seek us out for information to examine the record of the incumbents and decide on whether to vote on what they know or roll the dice for our schools.
Our children today and the education they receive is the future of America.  They are the ones responsible keeping America strong in the coming decades.
If you are a school board candidate we have four questions for you. You can reply to this blog or email us at info@anamericanspeaks.com
God bless!
An American Speaks. Welcome to our first blog!

An American Speaks. Welcome to our first blog!

Hello friends of An American Speaks, this is our first official blog! When Mike Bishop said he wanted to “send out a blog” he thought he was just going to come up with an informative e-mail and send it out to a bunch of people who liked us. Well, that’s what some of you who signed up just for that will get but today’s social media demands more of us so now you will be able to keep up with us at http://www.anamericanspeaks.blog. We will send out email updates or you can find it on our webpage http://www.anamericanspeaks.com.

Our thoughts are to keep you posted on various activities every week so you can keep up with not only what we are working on but how your support is contributing to wholesome communities and the fight for traditional family values. We sure want you feedback too!

Let’s start by letting you know the three primary focus’ we have right now that will take most of our time, energy and contributions.

  1.  Arkansas petition drives in counties or communities that do not want marijuana dispensaries or grow facilities. Our informal polls tell us most civic leaders and citizens DO NOT KNOW that the constitutional amendment that allows medical marijuana allows cities or counties to OPT OUT by popular vote in the mid-term elections of Nov. 2018. Almost half the counties in Arkansas voted AGAINST this amendment and more than a handful that voted it in did so with less than 20 votes. Those voters have the right to say NO to marijuana in their community! We have established petition language and will be filing with the Ethics Commission this month starting with Boone County. If you want to explore a similar initiative in your community reach out to us 501-725-0219 or info@anamericanspeaks.com. There are rules to follow but we can help, it’s not as hard as you might think.
  2. Voter watch! We want to keep you informed of what’s coming up in mid-term elections.  There will be people and issues to vote on and mid term is often overlooked but WE LIVE WITH THE RESULTS, often for years! We don’t plan on telling you who to vote for but we sure will point you to resources like voting records that will allow you to make up your own mind as well as the pros and cons of bills that passed the House and Senate for placement on mid-term ballots.
  3. American Patriots Bible for legislators and civic leaders.  If you haven’t heard about this mission read more about it here The American Patriots Bible Mission by An American Speaks. Our leaders need lifting up, reminders and education about The Word and how it influenced every leader from the Founding Fathers, military leaders, U.S. presidents and frontier explorers.  These sponsorships put this bible directly into the hands of our state and community influencers and helps us fund our mission. In addition to funding everything from one bible to multiple cases you can also become a sustaining member for just a few dollars a month. You may just want to get one for yourself or bless a friend. Either way email toni@anamericanspeaks.com or call 501-725-0219.

Well these things are supposed to be brief so we’ll end it here.  These aren’t all we do but we wanted you to get the big picture with this first blog. We know everyone gets alot of email so our current goal is once a week. What do you think? Can you handle hearing from us once a week? If you want to give us feedback on the above initiatives or anything else on your heart let us know by calling or emailing any of the contact information above. If you don’t want to hear from us at all let us know that too!

We have been instructed:

Listen to what the LORD says: “Stand up, plead my case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say.” Micah 6:8

God bless you, God bless America.