Republicans in Louisiana’s House of Representatives said they will meet this week to revive efforts that would take coronavirus control away from Gov. John Bel Edwards. They said local governments should have control over restrictions in their Parish.
A similar move failed in June. But this time, Republicans say they have enough votes to override Edwards’s Executive Orders and get rid of statewide coronavirus restrictions. A majority, or at least 53 votes, would be necessary.
In a statement to WDSU, Shauna Sanford, Communications Director for Gov. Edwards’ Office, responded to the renewed push to bypass Edwards’ authority: “As the Governor has explained, there is still a lot of COVID-19 throughout our state and in every parish. All of his decisions, though not easy, have been based on the science and are in line with the White House Coronavirus Task Force. We are in constant communication with members of the legislature about the seriousness of this virus and have been since the beginning. The mitigation measures that we have in place including the mask mandate, social distancing, limiting social gatherings, frequent hand washing and encouraging people to stay home when they are sick are working, but at this time, there isn’t a single parish that can afford not to continue practicing all of these measures together.”
But many lawmakers disagree. They say people and businesses should be free to do what local leaders find appropriate, especially when it comes to the mask mandate, limits on indoor gatherings, including church services and restrictions on businesses.
St. Tammany, Jefferson and Lafourche Parish Councils have all passed Resolutions asking the governor to allow coronavirus restrictions to be eased regionally, rather than statewide.
Dr. Joseph Kanter, Region One medical director with the Louisiana Department of Health, said it’s not that simple.
“One of the challenges is that this virus doesn’t respect geographic boundaries very well and it spreads very easily — region to region, parish to parish … People might live in one area and work in another, and so risk confers that way and all those things need to be considered. I don’t think a regional approach is off the table for the future, but at this point in time it’s not where the state’s at.”
Lawmakers backing the move did not want to talk on camera until after they meet to discuss the plan Thursday.
In a statement, state Rep. Bryan Fontenot, R-Thibodaux, wrote: “Out of respect for the majority members of the House of Representatives, I must refrain from comment until the final details of any significant measure is taken to give the people of this state back their freedoms. I along with many people hope that day will be very soon!”
Some lawmakers have another concern, warning that if Edwards’ emergency orders are nullified, that wipes out weather-related orders too. They said FEMA aid could be cut off to people recovering from Hurricane Laura and any Louisianans who could be affected by Hurricane Sally.