FILE - Pelican Institute CEO Daniel Erspamer

Pelican Institute CEO Daniel Erspamer discussed policy recommendations during a Facebook webcast on the coronavirus

(The Center Square) – Tweaking Louisiana’s licensing rules to make it easier for out-of-state health care workers to work here could prove useful as the coronavirus crisis unfolds, a New Orleans-based think tank argues.

It’s one of several policy changes the fiscally conservative Pelican Institute for Public Policy either advocates or warns against in a recent commentary.

“We would support all this at any point in time,” said Renee Amar, Pelican’s vice president for government relations. “We just thought they were appropriate for the situation.”

Amar says Louisiana law recognizes medical licenses from other states, but the process to be allowed to work in the state is lengthy and cumbersome. Louisiana is among the nation’s leaders in COVID-19 cases, and Pelican says condensing a process that normally takes months into a few days would help to ensure that anyone with the proper medical training would be able to serve those most in need.

The institute also suggests the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development develop emergency rules regarding the use of drones for transportation of crucial medical equipment and tests. At a time when social distancing is the norm, drones could be used for speedy delivery without human interaction, Pelican CEO Daniel Erspamer said.

“There’s still perfectly reasonable legislative debate and discussion about what the right policies are [regarding drones],” he said. “Let’s take emergency action now, something that could help people, and then we’ll take a step back to evaluate the right long-term policy.”

At the same time, Pelican is wary about acts that might be taken during an emergency that might lead to permanent policy or interfere with the private sector. For example, they’re urging governments not to suspend measures to promote public transparency.

Louisiana government has made some temporary changes to how it handles unemployment claims, such as waiving the one-week waiting period and the requirement that recipients look for work. Pelican urges governments not to make permanent changes to unemployment claims that could lead to higher taxes on businesses.

And the group also urges governments not to focus too much on price gouging. Erspamer concedes there are some “bad actors,” but he says public officials shouldn’t overreact to price changes that come with the normal shifts in supply and demand.

The institute is also recommending residents support local businesses during the crisis, including restaurants by ordering drive-thru or delivery meals.

The full commentary is available here.

Pelican is planning to hold a series of coronavirus-related webinars that will be streamed at its Facebook page, including one Tuesday focused on education.

On Monday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 1,172 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, and 34 deaths.

Staff Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.