Medicaid oversight bill shot down

The Louisiana State Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday voted down an effort to bring another layer of oversight to the Medicaid program.

Representative Rick Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge) sponsored HCR 22, suggesting the committee would bring more focused and thorough regulation to the complex, “mammoth” program. The new committee would have been made up of members from four existing committees in the House and Senate that are focused on health and financial issues.

Charles Castille, a former Department of Health undersecretary, said the change was unnecessary. “Medicaid already has an oversight committee,” Castille said. “You’re it, along with the House Health and Welfare Committee.”

Louisiana medicaid accounts for approximately forty percent of the state budget and serves nearly thirty-five percent of state residents.

“Fetal heartbeat” abortion bill passes

By a margin of 79-23, Louisiana SB184 prohibiting the abortion of an unborn human being with a detectable heartbeat has passed, without an exception in the case of incest or rape. This will completely ban abortions in Louisiana if a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Louisiana joins Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri, which have all passed so-called "heartbeat" bills this year.

Along with Alabama's near-total ban on abortion, the heartbeat bills are part of a conservative nationwide push to bring a Supreme Court challenge to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in the US.

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for a signature to enact it into law.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said in a statement that he "ran for governor as a pro-life candidate," and intended to sign the abortion ban.

Bills to legalize recreational marijuana fail

Two bills focused on the legalization of marijuana, HB509 and HB564, were both denied by the Louisiana legislature.

Both bills were defeated in the Criminal Justice committee, with Democrats voting for, and Republicans voting against.

According to the 2013 ACLU report Black and White, enforcing cannabis prohibition causes the United States as much as $46.5 million each year. Meanwhile, Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 brings in around $250 million per year in cannabis tax revenue.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Louisiana for four years, but many patients have yet to receive their prescriptions.