Friday, April 13, 2012

Irresponsible Laws Proposed by La. Legislators

Thursday, April 11th, 2012
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


There’s a great new edict that’s about to become law in my home state of Louisiana. It’s called the GTCPTG statute. Short for, “Give the Criminals plenty of time to get away.” Louisiana legislators and the state’s insurance department are working overtime to assure that the Bayou State continues to hold the title of the country’s most expensive state in which to buy insurance.

Two noble goals have been set in the state’s capitol in Baton Rouge. First, pass new laws to be absolutely sure that automobile insurance rates keep going up. And second, pass other laws that stop property owners from asserting legal claims against the state run property insurance company. There is certainly a great deal at stake, and it looks like state legislators and insurance officials will stop at nothing in order to maintain the state’s number one position of having the highest auto and property rates in America. Way to go, guys.

There’s a saying has been around the Baton Rouge state capitol for years -- “Hold on to your wallets…the legislature’s in session, and they’re about to stick it to you.” There has never been a more appropriate time for such an admonition. In the 40 years plus that I have spent around the legislative and regulatory process in Louisiana, as a legislator, a statewide official, an insurance regulator, and as a political observer, I cannot recall a time when policy holders have been so maligned, and the interests of the public at large have been so disregarded.

First up is the “give the law breakers notice” legislation that is simply incredible. The proposed law, which has already passed the House of Representatives, requires police agencies to alert the public and give advance notice before they can set up check points to stop and apprehend drunk drivers, uninsured drivers, and cars with expired inspection stickers. Can you imagine how fast the word would spread by social media, like Twitter, when other drivers see a check point being set up?

Drunk drivers are the cause of more than half the serious injuries and deaths on Louisiana roadways. Drinking and driving uninsured are major reasons for Louisiana having the highest insurance rates in the country. Where is the logic of alerting law breakers that a traffic stop is close at hand? One can just picture the drunk driver both laughing and weaving down the road as he takes a side street to avoid the check point.

And why give notice to drunks who can kill you and uninsured drivers who can send your insurance rates through the roof? How about the drug dealers in high crime neighborhoods? Do we give them notice that a bust is close at hand? How about the state giving advance warning before any criminal arrest is about to be made. Breaking the law is, well, breaking the law. Why give those who willfully violate the law plenty of advanced warning?

The merciless suffering being piled on Louisiana policy holders does not stop at the, “Give the Criminals Notice” legislation. Some 18, 000 Louisiana property owners, who put their trust in both the legislature and insurance officials are being denied legitimate claims by the very officials who were elected to protect them. It’s the long running and very sad saga of the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Company.

Citizens was supposed to be the insurer of last resort, the lifeline for homeowners living in high risk areas. Instead, it has become the most dysfunctional agency in state government. It was a disaster waiting to happen from its very inception. Created by the Louisiana Legislature at the behest of the Insurance Department, Citizens was one of the most poorly constructed business operations ever conceived by a state legislature. With no capital and no surplus available to get the company started on a sound financial footing, Citizens was broke from day one. Almost immediately it became obvious that no one at Citizens had the slightest idea of how to run an insurance company.

Just last week, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that Citizens will be stuck with a judgment approaching $125 million. Because state run Citizens is broke and well over one billion dollars in debt, every other property owner in the state is required, by Louisiana law to bail out the incompetent actions of this company, a company that never should have been formed in the first place. To add insult to injury, and rub more salt in the wounds of unpaid property owners, Citizens continues to drag out any settlement by filing a quixotic appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that has absolutely no chance of even being granted a hearing. In the meantime, in pursuit of this totally futile appeal, there are lawyers to hire at a cost huge additional cost, that policy holders across the state will end up paying.

Instead of calling for a full investigation and coming to the aid of the abused policyholders, some legislators, at the bidding of Citizens, are offering legislation to prohibit any judgment against this contemptible company, and showing even more contempt for the public by making such a law retroactive. That’s right. Draft this proposed law so as to stop cold any effort by those who have been ripped off by Citizens from receiving one penny. If the legislature will not come to the defense of these abused policyholders, hopefully there will be a courageous prosecutor out there who will say, “enough is enough,” and begin a criminal investigation.

One of the major problems facing Louisiana insurance policy holders is that, unlike most states, there is no independent consumer protection office to challenge regulators or legislators. In many states, such a policy protector is allowed to go into court and challenge the actions of companies like Citizens, as well as challenge regulators and legislators that act irresponsibly. But in Louisiana, as in the case of Citizens, the policyholder is not only on his own, but is forced to fight insurance regulators in court.

The high cost of insurance in Louisiana is a major reason why competing states are drawing ahead in so many economic sectors. Louisiana just cannot compete because of the high cost of insurance. Louisiana homeowners and businesses are paying some $3 billion more in insurance premiums than the national per capita average -- more than twice the amount paid by citizens in any other southern state. THREE BILLION DOLLARS MORE! Think what an additional $3 billion saved and poured back into the Louisiana economy would mean to the economic vitality and quality of life in the state.

Hopefully, there will be some legislators with the backbone to stand up to these bureaucrats who would seem to have little concern for, and even contempt for the public interest. If not, the Bayou State will continue to languish at the bottom, and its citizens can wear the pin that says: “Louisiana: We know how to Stick it to us!


“It’s not hurricanes that are causing high insurance rates, but bad government policy,”

Policy analyst Michelle Minton

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates by Clicking here. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Speak English or Else!

Thursday, April 5, 2012
Redneck Country, Louisiana


I was at a book fair recently, hawking some of my Lisburn Press publications, and I was asked to comment on the nation’s immigration problem. One fellow apparently didn’t like my response. “Oh, I know all about you writers out there with your fancy English degrees. You think you have a lot more common sense then us rednecks.”

All right, I’ll admit it. I do live in a semi cosmopolitan city of Baton Rouge, received part of my education outside the U.S. and have traveled the world a good bit. But you can’t take the Ferriday redneck out of city folks like me. I have a pick up as well as an old SUV with 180,000 miles on it. They both have driven the back roads of north Louisiana on many occasions. I laugh at, and mostly agree with, all the “you must be a redneck” jokes. (You must be a redneck if you know instinctively that red wine goes with possum.) And by the way, I have a great possum recipe coming out in my updated version of “Jim Brown’s World Famous Squirrel Stew and other Country Recipes.”

Anyone like me who came from the same southern country town that raised Jerry Lee Lewis and Reverend Jimmy Swaggart certainly qualifies as a card-carrying redneck. So assuming you accept my credentials, you might be surprised at my reaction to a bumper sticker I saw while driving down a gravel road just past Frogmore, Louisiana. (That’s right. Frogmore -- about 15 minutes west of Ferriday, if you check your map.) On the rear window of a truck ahead of me, the driver had displayed his feelings in no uncertain terms: “You’re in America Now; Speak English or Get Out!”

Now I know it’s the political rage throughout the country to demand that English should be the official language. And quite frankly, I agree. That is, from the public perspective. I occasionally get a bit irritated when I’m told to “press one for English, two for Spanish” etc. If a U.S. governmental body insists on printing forms, giving tests, and processing governmental applications only in English, then that is how the process works. It’s the law.

But here’s where states’ rights come in. If any state feels the need to offer services in another language, that should be its prerogative. In some areas of my home state of Louisiana, French is the only language spoken by older Cajuns. Grocery stores in some small south Louisiana communities put up daily specials in French, and the southern part of the state has a number of radio stations that carry French Cajun music. In the southeast corner of the state, a number of publications appear in Vietnamese to service the growing Asian community of immigrating fisherman.

But a strong “English Only” backlash is growing. In the recent Alabama governor’s race, Republican candidate Tim James makes no bones about his pandering. His TV commercials cry out: “We speak English, so if you cannot speak English, or refuse to speak English, get out of Alabama and our country.”

Here’s what widely circulated blogger Michael Murphy has to say about our language. “I find myself becoming more and more indigent over how some neighborhoods in this country look more like neighborhoods in other countries. You want to go to a place that looks like China, I say go to China. This is America. Is it right that I can't go into a resturant on American soil without an encyclopedia? I mean, what the heck is rigatoni? I ordered it because their wasn’t spagetty on the menu and they said it was like spagetty, but it wasn’t. It was these strange tubes, so there liars too.

That’s right. This guy’s comments circulate the worldwide web. (The multiple spelling errors are his, not mine.) And hey, Michael, you don’t have to go to the orient to see what the world’s largest country looks like. Just check out the Chinatown sections of most major U.S. east and west coast cities.

So what’s up with this sudden assault on the multicultural speak in the U.S? Take a look at Washington. The American job market has been annihilated, with unemployment still hanging around 10%. We hear a lot about “trickle down.” The disastrous economic policies, put in place by the Washington gang of both Republicans and Democrats, bailed out Wall Street but dumped on Main Street, and now have trickled down to the average Joe, who is fighting to keep his head above water.

So it’s easy to understand why this same Joe blames his economic woes on the so-called “illegal” immigrants that he sees working all around him. As columnist Mark Crovelli writes: “He sees foreigners mowing lawns all over town, cooking meals in virtually every restaurant he patronizes, and installing every roof in the neighborhood, and he reasons that his current plight is due primarily to the fact that these foreigners “steal” jobs that otherwise would be his for the taking. However, the biggest insult of all, to his mind, is the fact that these foreigners don’t have the courtesy to speak his language, and yet they still manage to find and steal jobs from English-speaking Americans like him!”

This opens a whole new can of worms as to why so many “legals” cannot compete, or will not compete against half literate immigrants who don’t speak English. When I drive around my home town of Baton Rouge, I see Latinos on their way to work cleaning my neighborhood houses, installing new roofs all over town, mowing yards, busing at many local restaurants, and maintaining local golf courses. Employers say they would rather hire American workers, but just cannot find willing labor. Many of these same employers are taking Spanish lessons so as to better communicate with their growing workforce.

The problem is not in my neighborhood, or my city, but in the nation’s capitol. Both Republicans and Democrats have continually dodged the challenge to find a comprehensive solution to the whole immigration mess that these same lawmakers allowed in the first place. Congress (both parties) created a housing bubble that attracted millions of Latinos to enter the U.S. illegally, and go to work on the overheated and unsustainable housing market that was desperate for new workers. Paraphrasing Pogo, “We have found the problem, and the problem was created by those we sent to Washington.”

So, until congress finds the courage to have some backbone and face this immigration mess head on, the rest of the country has little choice but to stand by and wait, with the occasional quixotic jousting that we are observing in Arizona.

But what about “Speak English or Get Out?” Look, I’ll stay out of your face and you stay out of mine. Don’t tell me what language I can or cannot speak. I don’t need big brother telling me what to do. If I want to go around speaking any foreign language, that’s my right as an American. I will not voluntarily stand by and let my redneck friend or Big Brother set the parameters as to how I can or cannot communicate. When you tell me what language to speak, then you start down the path of telling me what I can speak, or whether I can even speak at all.

So to all my friends, redneck like me or otherwise, pick and choose your fights wisely. The problem is the overspending, money wasting, high taxing, and freedom limiting bureaucrats in Washington who lack the courage to set this country in the right direction with a little common sense. You up there! Take care of the economic chaos you created. And for goodness sake, leave me and poor Pedro alone.


“English? Who needs that? I’m never going to England!” Homer Simpson

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the nation. You can read all of his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am until 11 am central time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

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