Yes we have a problem with John Bel Edwards. No, it is not what you would think that I would write about.
The state constitution, our fundamental law, defines our state government as a democratically elected republic. Further, it specifies three branches of government with clearly defined roles. Nowhere does our constitution dedicate any special power to the executive to make unilateral decisions as to the most impactful aspects of our state government. Let me repeat that; we have a clearly defined separation of powers specifically to avoid an “Imperial” executive. The crafters of our national constitution, the theory of government from which we derive our state fundamental law, had seen the scourge of a monarchical system of government and had fought a revolution to get out from under its yoke.
I believe that the intent of divided government is for a governor to present his vision, his strategy if you will, to the legislative body for their input and acquiescence. Unfortunately our current governor has not really displayed any vision and in general has decided to use executive orders to achieve his goals in order to avoid the route of getting legislative approval of his ideas. As examples of Gov. Edwards’ use of extraordinary powers he has expanded Medicaid by adding billions to our state spending, he has tried to grant protected class status on the basis of sexual orientation and personal sexual preference, he has made drastic changes to a critical economic development tool (ITEP), and now he has approved $15 billion worth of contract extensions in order to cover up the Administration’s failure to renegotiate them in a timely manner. None of this with legislative approval.
I don’t care whether one likes these programs or not, that is not what concerns me. What concerns me is that this governor believes that he is entitled to make incredibly impactful decisions by bypassing legislative prerogative. We do not have an Imperial governor though one would give leave to think that he believes otherwise.
So you may say I am just picking on Gov. Edwards because he is a Democrat. It is true that for the first time in modern history we actually have a philosophical division between the legislative and the executive branches of government. I do not look upon that as bad or that the legislature is just trying to stonewall a political opponent. The people elected the legislature and those elected represent very closely the beliefs of the people. It is imperative that the legislature do its job and if that takes the form of opposition to the governor’s philosophy then it is incumbent upon him to convince the legislature otherwise. Nowhere in our fundamental law is it stated that a governor is entitled to a puppet legislature. Granted historically it has been such but times have changed and I suggest for the better.
Many of my peers and I have written to the Attorney General asking for legal advice to support or deny our belief that the governor’s actions are not in accordance with the letter nor the spirit of the constitution. Time will tell, but I will never lose my faith in our republican form of government with its division of powers and the validity of our constitution.