Voters in parts of Jefferson, Orleans, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes go to the polls Saturday, June 4, for a special primary election to fill the Senate District 6 seat vacated upon the recent death of veteran lawmaker John Hainkel. Any runoff will take place July 9. Seven candidates have qualified to replace Hainkel, the only lawmaker in Louisiana history to hold the top leadership posts in both houses of the Legislature. A high voter turnout would be a fitting tribute to Hainkel, a unique man for a unique district.
Senate District 6 is distinctive for both its design and its conservatism. It stretches from Tchoupitoulas Street in Uptown New Orleans through Old Metairie, across Lake Pontchartrain to the strawberry fields of Ponchatoula and to the dairy farms and upscale suburbs of the Northshore. Although evenly split between Republicans and Democrats (both parties have 38 percent of the registered vote), District 6 is one of the most conservative districts in the state. As a group, the six candidates we interviewed for the seat were among the best prepared and most highly qualified candidates we have seen. Although we don't agree with many of their positions on social issues, we always try to recommend district candidates whom we believe will represent the best attributes and aspirations of their constituents as well as the entire state. At the end of the day, one candidate stood out above the rest -- Julie Quinn.
We endorsed Quinn in 2001, when she was first elected to the Jefferson Parish School Board in a special election. She won re-election in 2003, when she ran unopposed. Quinn has been an outstanding board member. She was the driving force behind the creation of Jefferson Parish's first magnet school and worked to institute a successful drug-testing program for students. Her civic commitment to groups such as Dollars for Scholars complements her ability to get things done in the business and political arenas. Quinn also is no stranger to the Northshore. She is the daughter of St. Tammany's first parish president, Bruce Unangst, and grew up there.
Quinn's considerable energy, intellect and ability will serve the district well.
The Senate needs someone like Quinn, who knows firsthand the dire issues confronting our state's public schools. She will fight for a mandatory statewide early childhood education (Pre-K) program. She favors requiring local school districts to enact a uniform purchasing system to replace the current, more costly practice of individual school-based purchases. Quinn also will be champion for parent education classes for the disadvantaged. If elected, she should make education her focus in the Senate.
Above all, we urge all our readers in District 6 to honor Hainkel's legacy by voting this Saturday, June 4. To find your polling place, contact the Secretary of State at www.sec.state.la.us/elections/elect-before.htm.
A Troubling Bill
House Bill 485, which would erode the state Public Records Act and impair patients' abilities to pursue medical malpractice claims, has unanimously passed the House and cleared the Senate Judiciary A committee. It was awaiting action in the Senate at press time. This ill-conceived bill would restrict patients' access to documents that could support their complaints -- including a health-care facility's risk management reports, professional liability conclusions or recommendations, and other internal information that could prove claims of negligent or inferior caregiving. The legislation makes a range of evidence inadmissible in a case against a medical facility or worker -- even statements of guilt made directly to the patient. This bill is outrageous in both its scope and its audacity.
The state already has numerous safeguards aimed at limiting malpractice suits -- many erring on the side of protecting negligent professionals. This bill, and its overwhelming legislative support thus far, reflects our elected officials' continuing desire to appease the health-care industry at the expense of Louisiana residents harmed by inferior medical care. We are disappointed by those lawmakers who approved this anti-constituent, anti-patient bill, and we urge the full Senate to kill it.
Help for the SPCA
Legislators should carefully consider the Louisiana SPCA's request for a $100,000 crime-fighting appropriation. The money would help the nonprofit animal-welfare group and state police to expand dogfighting arrests across Louisiana. National animal-fighting and crime-prevention experts have long known that dogfight raids often uncover other, even more serious felonies, especially drug and illegal weapons violations. 'In the grand scheme of things, $100,000 is not an enormous amount of money -- especially when you're getting federal charges out of these dogfighting cases,' SPCA executive director Laura Maloney points out. We agree.
Maloney says major dogfighting arrests bring a slew of expenses for her agency. Police tend to call the SPCA when they make busts in rural areas that lack animal-welfare facilities to house confiscated dogs. In such cases, the SPCA provides professional staff, equipment, knowledge and facilities -- all at the nonprofit's expense. We believe $100,000 would be wisely spent on this crime-fighting initiative.