Republicans initiate plan to curb governor’s restrictions
Republicans in the state legislature have brought forth a measure aimed at stopping Governor John Bel Edwards from keeping the state closed passed May 15. The governor’s stay-at-home order had been extended to May 15, but there is the possibility he could extend it even further if he deems it unsafe to open up the state amid COVID-19 concerns.
Louisiana Republicans would prefer the governor’s stay-at-home order be applied on a parish-by-parish approach, as they believe some parishes, specifically those with dense urban cities, are more at risk than rural parishes.
The state’s House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted cast a 9-7 vote to advance House GOP leader Blake Miguez’s resolution to block Edwards. The resolution must now win passage in the House and Senate. The proposal aims to eliminate Edwards’ ability to penalize businesses that do not comply with his order.
Senator Heather Cloud shared her thoughts about the resolution. “This measure is absolutely not political grandstanding. This is about immediately securing the balance between both the health and safety of lives and livelihoods. No one wants to have to do this, to take authority, and in this case, enforcement authority away from the governor. The whole reason that we had a stay-at-home order was to prevent our healthcare facilities and resources from being overwhelmed and depleted, which we have done. Tremendous sacrifice has been made by families and business owners along with our healthcare workers.” She added that citizens have been “remarkably patient,” but for many, patience and time have run out.
“To continue to bind everyone down and hold them back is not right in any form, shape or fashion,” explained Cloud. She and other Louisiana Republicans believe the resolution represents most of Louisiana’s citizens, saying it is “what the people have asked for: the ability to get back to providing for their families and securing the economy.”
Matthew Block, Edwards’ chief lawyer, fears this resolution will take power away from the governor, who has been seeking advice from the scientific and medical communities. Block told the House committee, “We know there’s going to be mass confusion and a hodgepodge response in the biggest public health disaster in probably the last 100 years.”
Once the state reopens, Phase One will consist of guidelines put forth by the Trump Administration. It would require a sustained downward trend of virus symptoms and cases across the state. Businesses would have lighter restrictions. Movie theaters, churches, restaurants, salons, and gyms would have strict social distancing rules. Groups will still have to have fewer than 10 people, but the people working from home may gradually return to work.
Cloud believes the governor should have implemented Phase 1 on May 1st. “We will see what happens with the bill, but we need him to do the right thing by implementing Phase 1 now, and let our people prove that they can and will work smart.”
Edwards did note, however, that non-essential retail stores were never ordered to be closed, though it is mandatory to practice social distancing with no more than 10 people inside the store at any given time. “I am anxious to get all areas of our economy reopened, but if we accelerate too quickly, we may have to slam on the brakes. That will be bad for public health and for businesses, bad for our people, and bad for our state,” said Edwards. He will make a decision on whether or not to extend the order on Monday, May 11.