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Posts published in February 2006

Reincarnated

Measure 37 is back in full, and not. Legally, it has returned to status as functional and operative law of Oregon. Politically? That may be another matter.

Its constitutionality was upheld firmly in today's decision by the Oregon Supreme Court in Hector McPherson v. Department of Administrative Services - it left no part of the legal attack on the land use law standing. Most basically, the court held that a lower court judge and the plaintiffs misunderstood the relationship between the measure and the nature of legislative power in Oregon.)

The summary paragraph read this way: "In sum, we conclude that (1) plaintiffs' claims are justiciable; (2) Measure 37 does not impede the legislative plenary power; (3) Measure 37 does not violate the equal privileges and immunities guarantee of Article I, section 20, of the Oregon Constitution; (4) Measure 37 does not violate the suspension of laws provision contained in Article I, section 22, of the Oregon Constitution; (5) Measure 37 does not violate separation of powers constraints; (6) Measure 37 does not waive impermissibly sovereign immunity; and (7) Measure 37 does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The trial court's contrary conclusions under the state and federal constitutions were erroneous and must be reversed."

Every challenge posed so far was rejected, and that probably means Measure 37 will not be thrown out by the courts, period.

There may be other meanings as well, though. (more…)

Not having to say you’re sorry

It may help to know that the chief lobbyist working on the new Idaho doctor-apology legislation is also one of the key figures, stretching back some years, behind the state's "tort reform" legislation - attorney Ken McClure.

But that may mean more than one thing.

Here's the skeptical take. When you get legislation in hand which blocks prospectively important evidence in cases of medical malpractice, as is the case with House Bill 634, now on the House floor, careful consideration is called for. And bear in mind that "tort reform" means limiting the scope of what can be sued about, and for. Is this simply a device to allow malpracticing physicians to slip out of legitimate lawsuits?

That would be the dark view; a reasonable counter view (which McClure clearly notes) is that fear of lawsuits has chilled a great deal of honest discussion between physicians and patients. It has led to all manner of unfortunate results, from dispensing drugs which probably aren't needed but will serve to cover a doctor's behind, to an inability to say the simple but highly important words, "I'm sorry." A great deal of civilization has been lost to our lawsuit-happy ways - a fact no less real than the malpractices that do occur and should be litigated.

When we attended journalism conferences in years past, we often heard a piece of advice from gurus on media litigation. It was this: If you did something wrong, apologize. Very often, that simple response is all someone is looking for, and often it will end the prospect of lawsuits before it begins.

No less could be true in medicine. And that could be helpful all around.

Post Script - Note the medical/legal deal just announced at the Washington statehouse, a component of which is a similar version of the "no-fault apology" provision.

Not having to say you’re sorry

It may help to know that the chief lobbyist working on the new Idaho doctor-apology legislation is also one of the key figures, stretching back some years, behind the state's "tort reform" legislation - attorney Ken McClure.

But that may mean different things.

When you get legislation in hand which blocks prospectively important evidence in cases of medical malpractice, as is the case with House Bill 634, now on the House floor, careful consideration is called for. And bear in mind that "tort reform" means limiting the scope of what can be sued about, and for. Is this simply a device to allow malpracticing physicians to slip of legitimate lawsuits?

That would be the dark view; a reasonable counter view (which McClure clearly notes) is that fear of lawsuits has chilled a great deal of honest discussion between physicians and patients. It has led to all manner of unfortunate results, from dispensing drugs which probably aren't needed but will serve to cover a doctor's behind, to an inability to say the simple but highly important words, "I'm sorry." A great deal of civilization has been lost to our lawsuit-happy ways - a fact no less real than the malpractices that do occur and should be litigated.

When we attended journalism conferences in years past, we often heard a piece of advice from gurus on media litigation. It was this: If you did something wrong, apologize. Very often, that simple response is all someone is looking for, and often it will end the prospect of lawsuits before it begins.

No less could be true in medicine. And that could be helpful all around.

Ahead, Tuesday

Not much attention to this elsewhere yet, so be it noted: The Oregon Supreme Court decision on Measure 37 is expected to be released on Tuesday morning.

That is courtesy of the McMinnville News Register, which quietly broke the story Saturday.

No word yet, of course, what that decision will be. We'll be watching.

Fact checking

Our political discourse could use a lot more fact checking. On the national level, a number of well regarded sites (FactCheck.org for one) have made it their business to check the accuracy and reasonableness of statements, allegations and articles. The Northwest has nothing like that.

This site has tried to do such work occasionally, and will continue to. More emphatically, it will try to link to fact checks on other sites, and do what it can to encourage the practice.

With that in mind, first up: A piece on Washblog, "WA Farm Bureau misrepresents facts to support ballot Initiative." Writer Noemie Maxwell parsed the remarks of Steve Appell, president of the Washington Farm Bureau, as he pitched the case for an initiative (tagged the Property Fairness Initiative) intended generally to match Oregon's Measure 37 in its intent of allowing certain property owners to bypass land use regulations.

Maxwell turned to committee minutes, official filings, recorded statements and other original material to conclude that important parts of the Appell speech were misleading at best. It is worth a read.

A departure

Steve Ahrens has been a fixture at the Idaho Statehouse for 31 years, and we've known him nearly that long. That makes the idea of his retirement, which he has announced will happen this fall, the more startling: Hardly anyone now around the Statehouse knew it pre-Ahrens.

Steve AhrensIn just about all of his time there as a (first) reporter and (later) lobbyist and (for 16 years) president of the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry, he has also been more than a fixture: He's been a major presence. That's accounted for in some part by his employers, the Idaho Statesman newspaper, Boise Cascade and IACI, which represents most of Idaho big business along with a chunk of medium-to-smaller business. But that's not all. Ahrens is courteous and has a sense of humor and a sometimes surprising informality, and an interest in helping out the newbies who regularly show up, and all that helps over the long haul. (In our Ridenbaugh Press lists of influential Idahoans, Ahrens has almost always ranked high, and a lot of people would have been shocked if he hadn't.) But that's not all either.

There is another thing about Ahrens that non-professionals might not get: He's a hardcore legislature addict. The minutiae of the legislature, the personalities, the political campaigns, the vote counts, the structure of the committees, the rules and the process - Ahrens has immersed himself into it all deeply, for a very long time, and he can talk about it with the kind of attention to intricate detail that a really good mechanic could use in describing how his favorite make of car works. He is evidence that, apart from all else, information is power.

No small thing, as 31 years will attest.

Secretive police, policing speech

Homeland Security is a lousy name purely for its connotations: It echoes too near the old German "fatherland" and Russian "motherland" (or "fatherland"). The eeriness factor multiplies when it generates cases like that of Dwight Scarbrough in Boise.

That story, told inthe current Boise Weekly (and highlighted well in the current Boise Guardian), is enough to make anyone wonder whose security is being protected. The dividing line, apparently, has to do with who you vote for. (more…)

Casino turnout

Who would have thought? Check the turnout at Clark County's Prairie High School on the subject of a casino proposed for near La Center by the Cowlitz Tribe.

About 1,000 people were estimated to have shown up at a formal federal event that, as the official in charge noted, was still early in the process. Nonetheless, the Vancouver Columbian described the event as "full-fledged political theater with information booths, signs, buttons, stickers and banners. Casino supporters rallied their troops with 300 caps, 500 T-shirts and upwards of 150 pizzas, the uneaten last dozen or so turned over to the high school's busy maintenance staff. More than 700 people filled the auditorium, another 100 milled around outside, grumbling at their inability to get in, and 200 more stood in a hallway and watched the meeting on a video monitor. Judging by who cheered and when, supporters outnumbered opponents by perhaps four or five to one." Union support apparently accounts for much of the organization.

Website notification

We've suspected for a decade or so that the rise of the web was likely to change, eventually, the requirements by governments for providing proper notification to the public of its actions. In sum: Is the public adequately notified of an important action if the agency puts notice of it on its web site, as opposed to - for example - notifying or taking out ads in newspapers?

Washington courtsMedia executives should take notice of Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority v. Kenneth & Barbara Miller (Docket 76284-8), just filed. The subject of the case concerns property condemnation for public use, in this case a tract at Tacoma owned by the Millers (as owners of a construction company) intended for use as a park-and-ride station. (Sound Transit is trying to run its line further south, toward Lakewood.) The case has several prongs; the one at hand here concerns notice to the public. The court summarizes: (more…)