INdiana Systemic Thinking

January 20, 2008

IN Lawmakers File 770 Bills

Think property taxes are the only thing legislators are discussing?  According to the Indianapolis Star, Indiana Lawmakers filed 770 bills and resolutions this cycle.  The story correctly points out most will not get past the filing stage and fewer still through committee.  They point out a few, such as;

SB3:  Pharmacist Refusal

Pharmacists could refuse to fill a prescription for contraceptives or a drug that induces abortion under Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Drozda, R-Westfield. The bill was approved 6-5 by the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee and is now ready for action by the full Senate.
HB1211:  Home Buyers and Owners
would require that people buying a home get all the papers they must sign 48 hours before closing, so that they have a chance to read all the fine print. Among other steps, the lengthy bill would require lenders to make reasonable inquiries into someone’s ability to repay the loan, and require lenders to work with homeowners to avoid foreclosure if the mortgage payment is 60 days overdue.
Smoking: SB28, HB1057
So-called “fire-safe” cigarettes would be sold in Indiana under Senate Bill 28, which passed the Senate Commerce, Public Policy and Interstate Cooperation Committee 6-0.
The bill, authored by Drozda, would make Indiana the 23rd state to require that cigarettes be self-extinguishing if dropped or left unattended.
Another piece of legislation, HB 1057, would ban smoking in all public places, with the exception of bars, bowling alleys and casinos. But the bill’s author, Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said he plans to change the bill so a ban would apply to bowling alley and bars. He said he hasn’t decided whether to include casinos.
“Smoking, is smoking, is smoking. In those three places, I’m more concerned about the employees and the majority of people who frequent those places who aren’t smokers,” Brown said. “So why do we give in to the minority and say we need to smoke in this given place?”
The bill will get a hearing at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the House Public Policy Committee. State law already allows local jurisdictions to pass smoking bans.
Military SB56
Flags would be flown at half-staff for 24 hours at the Indiana Capitol to honor each Indiana member of the military who is killed while on active duty, under Senate Bill 56. The bill was approved 7-0 by the Senate Commerce, Public Policy and Interstate Cooperation committee and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

January 17, 2008

Run Away, Run Away!

Here is a nice little quote from the Fort Wayne City Council President as reported in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.  It deals with a study that found the air to be cleaner in restaurants and bars since Fort Wayne adopted a smoking ban.  Analysis after the quote:

Fort Wayne City Council President Tom Didier, R-3rd, considered the study’s findings a no-brainer.

“It’s pretty apparent (air is) going to be cleaner with no smoking,” he said.

But Didier – the sole council member to vote against the ban – still has reservations about government regulation of smoking.

Generally speaking, he thinks it should be the decision of private businesses whether to allow smoking. That sentiment has been echoed by other opponents of the ban, including bar owners who say it has driven away business.

“A lot of bars are struggling,” said Didier, a territory manager for U.S. Foodservice, which serves some local bars and restaurants. He said some restaurants have been negatively affected by the ban as well.

Still, he’s not sure whether the ban will change, even with some new council members pledging to revisit it. What’s more, he isn’t sure how he’d vote if an amendment were proposed. A provision allowing smoking in 21-and-older establishments could help some bars he works with while hurting other restaurant customers, he said.

“I do have a huge conflict of interest in this,” he said, adding that he might have to abstain from voting if such a change was proposed. He didn’t see a conflict of interest with his previous vote on the smoking ban because it affected businesses across the board, not just one type of business, such as bars, he said.

Of course an abstention would have nothing to do with the citizens of Fort Wayne unceremoniously kicking to the curb Councilor’s who voted for the ban now would it?  What a convenient awakening of ethical judgement on Didier’s part.  Come on Councilor, if you believe this is a good idea, that your constituents elected you to enact, stand up and vote your conscience.  This really looks like a scared politician who can’t take the heat.

January 15, 2008

Big Insurance Chimes in on FW Smoking Ban

This opinion piece appeared in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette yesterday about the smoking ordinance (if you are for it), or ban (if you are against it), enacted last year in Fort Wayne.  There is some talk of repealing it, as the city council was shaken up during the last election cycle.  However, as of right now, no one is allowed to smoke in any public building and if one wants to smoke outside, they have to be eight (I think) feet away from the door.  This had some unintended consequences when some “exotic dancers” needed a break from work, but that’s another story.

Anyway, a physician working for an insurance company based in Fort Wayne wrote the opinion piece.  The Blogmeister won’t name him or his company, so as to not give them any free advertising here.  In the spirit of full disclosure, the Blogmeister is not a provider for this company.  Mostly because they refuse to pay for Therapists, Social Workers, or Counselors unless there is a physician, on staff, in the building, at all times.  Thus, increasing costs for their members and allowing them to charge more for their insurance.

For those unaccustomed to Insurance speak, I’ll translate.  Here are the important parts of the story:

…It would also be unreasonable to hop back and forth on an important issue like this. Those it affects have for the most part made necessary adjustments to it, and businesses that were on viable footing before the ban are not threatened by it.

Translation:  If a business allowed smoking before and was doing fine, but now can’t make payroll it wasn’t a big chain restaurant to whom we were trying to sell insurance.  That’s okay though, because we will go across the line to all the mom and pop restaurants where all the smoking business has gone and sell them insurance because now they can afford it with all the increased revenue.

I have spoken to a number of our customers (employers in Fort Wayne who purchase insurance from ***) and have found that an overwhelming majority of them are happy to have the ban in place.

Translation:  I’m a doctor at an insurance company and people lie to me all the time because if they tell me how they really feel they are afraid my company will jump their rates. 

 Anything we can do to help make Fort Wayne a less expensive place to employ and provide health insurance for people makes Fort Wayne a more attractive city in which to locate businesses, do business and create jobs.

Translation:  The more people who don’t get sick, but who we can continue to charge outrageous rates is great for my company and me! 

We need to encourage smokers to quit in order to help get costs down, and most employers understand that.

Translation:  The insurance company’s costs will go down, but thats all, notice I didn’t say employers costs will go down.  Less people will go to the doctor and we will still charge more and more for insurance.  In addition, that pesky low cost insurance program started by Governor Mitch Daniels… you know the one, funded with cigarette taxes… won’t be “viable” and will go down in a blaze of glory.  Then all those people will have to come to my company for their insurance.  They will have to pay our exorbitant rates and I can make more money.  Dang,  all this sounds so good I can see that new BMW in my driveway now.  I just hope no one asks if we pay for smoking cessation or other preventative programs…   

…I urge the City Council to leave the smoking ban in place and not to move Fort Wayne backward along the road to making ours a better, healthier and more marketable city.

Translation:  Because I really, really want that beemer!

Now the Blogmeister realizes that translation was a little harsh.  However, if the City Council does decide to revisit the smoking issue, it is hoped the writer of the opinion piece will provide figures reflecting the dramatic decrease in insurance premiums (with the same level of benefits) his company is offering employers of Fort Wayne to back up his assertions. 

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