Constitutional change dies in Louisiana Senate

Nursing homes and hospitals have proposed constitutional amendments on the Nov. 4 ballot seeking protection from the state budget axe.

But the Louisiana Senate on Monday killed a proposed constitutional change aimed at providing the same type protection for services for the elderly, disabled and dying.

The Senate voted 13-25 against the measure by state Sen. Fred Mills, R-St. Martinville. Senate Bill 355 fell 13 votes shy of the two-thirds majority in the 39 member Senate to advance.

Along the way, the Senate also shot down state Sen. Ben Nevers attempt to put the issue of Medicaid expansion before state voters at the same time. Nevers said the expansion would provide the state $16 billion over the next 10 years and help the budget as well as mean “life or death ...sickness or wellness for many of our citizens.”

The Bogalusa Democrat’s amendment died when 15 senators voted for it and 22 against.

The Legislature last year approved by the two-thirds majority and sent to the Nov. 4 ballot budget protections for nursing homes and hospitals.

Mills said advocates for the community-based services as well as those in need of hospice care and home health care want a chance to take their case to voters too.

He said they will be exposed more to the budget axe ever if constitutional amendments aimed at protecting nursing homes and hospital are approved.

“We are playing musical chairs and it’s dangerous. It’s a dangerous game we are playing and they don’t have a seat,” said Mills.

Opponents said too much money is already dedicated, giving legislators little ability to manage the budget.

“I’d like to help anybody and everybody I can help as you do, but we need to be reasonable,” said state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton. To make his point, Adley submitted, then withdrew an amendment that would have dedicated $400 million in motor vehicle taxes to highways and $400 million in potential Internet sales taxes to higher education.

State Sen. Sherri Buffington, R-Keithville, said some of the groups could generate funds on their own so they would have the ability to draw down more federal funds.

State Sen. Troy Brown, D-Geismar, said voting for the constitutional amendment is “to vote for some of our most vulnerable people in our state.”