It’s Now A Flood Of Legislators Demanding An End To The Louisiana Shutdown

Caution was perhaps king in the early days of the economic shutdown for the Wuhan virus ordered by Gov. John Bel Edwards in mid-March, but with the fairly obvious turn in hospitalizations and ventilator use (and deaths as well, though virus deaths are both a lagging indicator of the virus’ spread and also a highly suspect statistic given the monkeying around with the definition of a virus death we’ve seen in Louisiana and elsewhere) the winds have changed.

And the change in those winds has produced a large groundswell in demands to end the shutdown and let Louisiana go back to work.

Last week a letter to President Trump signed by 35 state legislators encouraged the president to put the country back to work, largely echoing statements made by Reps. Danny McCormick, Mark Wright and Richard Nelson. Here’s that letter…

Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

RE: Re-opening America

 

Honorable President Trump:

We, the undersigned of the Louisiana Legislature, want to express our deep gratitude and support for the strength you continue to show in the face of great adversity. Every word you speak in defense of liberty, your determination in support of Louisiana and the United States of America, and the courage you are demonstrating make us proud to stand with you during this crisis we face together. Louisiana thanks you for your generosity and deep concern in providing a massive amount of support for our state. It has not gone unnoticed.

These present trials have not come upon us in vain, nor is this present testing wasted. We know that God will use the storms of life to make us stronger. God has lifted you up for such a time as this. We see His anointing and appointing on your life for our sake. Our trust is in God. The backbone of our success is in our ability to overcome, not in our ability to hide in our homes from some invisible enemy waiting for a cure.

We are not prepared to wipe out two hundred and forty-four years of liberties protected under our beloved Constitution because of a virus. As conservatives, our focus is on protecting the people we serve through common sense approaches not bigger government. Our fundamental God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must be preserved.

We stand with you to fight government expansion and the efforts of those who work hard every day to undermine the reason and resolve of the American spirit and to destroy our great nation. This is not the first time our nation has experienced this type of threat. The American Revolution was fought during a smallpox epidemic, and in fact, twenty to thirty-six thousand Americans die each year of the flu including sixty thousand alone in 2018!

Fear of an invisible enemy, the Covid-19 virus, has gripped our state and nation. Hope is the only thing greater than fear. Never in our history has the government responded to a health crisis by closing businesses, issuing stay-at-home orders for healthy people, and suspending our constitutional liberties. The actions of our government have fueled the fires of fear and mass hysteria in the minds of many. This medical tyranny has temporarily wiped out our freedoms and fundamental way of life, has threatened our national security, and has collapsed our economy in the name of health and welfare.

Mr. President, you have repeatedly put your trust in the people to know what is right on complicated issues. You also said, “We don’t want the cure to be worse than the problem.”  These words have given us hope and encouragement that this will end soon. We support your plan with steps to open the country after May 1st. We support first opening the “mom and pop” businesses that are the backbone of our economy.

We believe in your motto of “America First.”  Follow your instincts and pay no attention to the accusers who do not put the interests of the people and America first. The people are ready to go back to work and end the “quarantine” and draconian measures that will bring our nation to its knees.

We stand with you and pray for your safety. May God give you wisdom and supernatural strength to do what is best for our nation and state.

Then Rep. Alan Seabaugh, one of the signers of that letter, put out his own message:

It is time to end the shut down and get Louisiana back to work on May 1. 

We are living in unprecedented and unforeseen times, and I acknowledge the difficult choices the Governor has had to make over the last few weeks.

We’ve lost many Louisianans—including several who were very close to us at the Capitol. In the House, we lost one of our own—Representative Reggie Bagala—who will be impossible to replace.

Our state, nation, and the world will never forget this most challenging time. Our first responders, health care workers, and all essential employees have made countless sacrifices for all of us, and we are all eternally grateful. It’s encouraging that our healthcare resources appear to be even more adequate than initially anticipated. No doubt, this is due to swift precautions and valiant efforts made by our healthcare professionals.

Every day we hear heartbreaking stories of the devastating economic impact the shutdown is having on the people of Louisiana. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They have sacrificed and been pushed to the limits to keep their employees and customers safe. Many small business owners across Louisiana have been denied promised relief from the Paycheck Protection Program due to a shortage of federal funding, making matters worse.

Now that the curve is beginning to flatten, they are eager to reopen safely.

The Governor’s current executive order expires on April 30th. I know he is trying to be diligent and steadfast in listening to advice from healthcare professionals as well as develop a plan for reopening.

It is now time to begin the process of reopening those businesses, on May 1st, under the phased guidelines provided by the White House. In particular, the President and his health care experts spoke about the ability to reopen our economy on a parish-by-parish basis.

This is the best approach to balance both the health and economic challenges we face.

Louisianans have been understanding and patient during this shutdown. But a long-term statewide shutdown is not sustainable. Continuing this universally across the entire state would cause widespread damage to the wellbeing of all our citizens.

America, and Louisiana, is a free society. We hold dear the freedoms of assembly, religion, and all other rights. In two weeks, it will be time for us to begin to reopen. Our people deserve to enjoy the freedoms bestowed upon them by both our state and US Constitution.

Louisianans are strong and resilient, and we know better days are ahead. Members of the legislature are eager to get back to work for the people of this great state. We stand ready to return to the Capitol and work with you to ensure that we set a path forward for recovery.

That statement was echoed in a letter sent by House Republican Delegation chairman Blake Miguez…

The Honorable John Bel Edwards
Governor, State of Louisiana
Post Office Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804

Governor Edwards:

I realize that we are living in unprecedented and unforeseen times, and I want to start by acknowledging the difficult choices you’ve had to make over the last few weeks. We’ve lost many Louisianans—including several who were very close to us at the Capitol. In the House, we lost one of our own—Representative Reggie Bagala—who will be impossible to replace.

Our state, nation, and the world will never forget this most challenging time. Our first responders, health care workers, and all essential employees have made countless sacrifices for all of us, and we are all eternally grateful. It’s encouraging that our healthcare resources appear to be even more adequate than initially anticipated. No doubt, this is due to swift precautions and valiant efforts made by our healthcare professionals.

Every day we hear heartbreaking stories of the devastating economic impact the shutdown is having on the people of Louisiana. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They have sacrificed and been pushed to the limits to keep their employees and customers safe. Many small business owners across Louisiana have been denied promised relief from the Paycheck Protection Program due to a shortage of federal funding, making matters worse.

Now that the curve is beginning to flatten, they are eager to reopen safely. Your current executive order expires on April 30th. I know you are trying to be diligent and steadfast in listening to advice from healthcare professionals as well as develop a plan for reopening.

On behalf of my constituents, I urge you to begin the process of reopening those businesses, on May 1st, under the phased guidelines provided by the White House. In particular, the President and his health care experts spoke about the ability to reopen our economy on a parish-by-parish basis.

I strongly believe this is the best approach to balance both the health and economic challenges we face.

Louisianans have been understanding and patient during this shutdown. But a long-term statewide shutdown is not sustainable. Continuing this universally across the entire state could cause widespread damage to the wellbeing of all our citizens. America, and Louisiana, is a free society. We hold dear the freedoms of assembly, religion, and all other rights. In two weeks, please let us begin to reopen. Our people deserve to enjoy the freedoms bestowed upon them by both our state and US Constitution.

Louisianans are strong and resilient, and we know better days are ahead. Members of the legislature are eager to get back to work for the people of this great state. I stand ready to return to the Capitol and work with you to ensure that we set a path forward for recovery.

It isn’t just legislators who are echoing the call to reopen the state next month. The Pelican Institute’s Daniel Erspamer…

“The Phase 1 guidelines from the federal government provide a responsible roadmap to start getting Louisiana working, and we strongly encourage our state’s leaders to begin implementing them on May 1. More than 350,000 unemployment claims have been filed in Louisiana in the last month, and these numbers will only worsen the longer our small businesses stay closed and our citizens remain out of work.

It’s time to tap into the innovative, determined spirit that has helped Louisiana overcome countless crises throughout our state’s history. We must address the two major crises we currently face – the public health threat posed by COVID-19 and its crippling economic effects – with equal and urgent energy. The federal plan to reopen the economy is a first step toward achieving this balance, and our leaders should act quickly to put the guidelines into action.”

Meanwhile, political activists around the state are beginning to gin up protest activity aimed at pressuring Edwards to get the state back to work. There was a small protest at the Louisiana state capitol on Friday, there is another planned for today and word has it there will be a larger event at the capitol on Saturday.

And Todd Murphy, the president of the Jefferson Parish Chamber of Commerce, issued a sharp rebuke to New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell for her decision last week to shut down large events in the city for the rest of the year.

So is this activity, which has ramped up very quickly since late last week as a combination of disgust with the shutdown, a cascade of alarming economic news and a definitive turn in the rate of spread of the virus have taken hold, likely to produce agreement from the state’s top executive?

That’s questionable.

Edwards did appoint a task force aimed, he says, at strategizing a reopening of the state’s economy. That would seem to be a step forward in recognizing the shutdown will have to end eventually. But the task force the governor appointed was hardly a who’s-who of Louisiana’s economic movers and shakers. It included the president of the Urban League in Louisiana, the state’s AFL-CIO director, a  contract lobbyist with ties to the governor, a banker, a couple of elected officials and a failed candidate for Insurance Commissioner, a corporate executive known to be an activist Democrat and a couple of other political allies of the governor who happen to be businesspeople – exactly one of whom would qualify as a small-business entrepreneur.

The list read more like the task force was a perfunctory action item, or a checking of boxes, than a real indication the governor is less than two weeks away from ending the shutdown. Meanwhile, the chancellor of LSU Health in Shreveport, Dr. G.E. Ghali, who rumor has it has been the brains behind Edwards’ virus response, is now demanding Louisiana stay closed through the end of May.

If the state of Louisiana does not keep social distancing restrictions in place through May, the state’s residents could suffer from a second wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths, a top state health official who reportedly communicates regularly with Gov. John Bel Edwards says.

Dr. G.E. Ghali, Chancellor at LSU Health Shreveport, warned that a model projecting the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana still expected demand for hospital services to exceed capacity in spite of current social distancing measures. If those measures were lifted prematurely, the consequences could be worse, according to Ghali.

“I’m afraid that if these social mitigation factors are released too early that we could be seeing a second peak, which would be a really bad deal,” Ghali told The Ouachita Citizen in an interview last week.

In Louisiana, Edwards has declined to say whether social distancing restrictions would continue through May, though he has suggested Louisiana is a “hot spot” for COVID-19. Hot spots for the virus would not reopen as quickly as other states, according to Edwards.

During the interview, Ghali commended Edwards, Trump and other states’ governors for carefully considering how best to slowly reopen the country.

“I think it’s a mistake to open too early,” Ghali said. “I don’t want to speak for the governor, but I think he will have some systematic, graded way of doing it, looking at various parishes, looking at various businesses, telling people that in two to three weeks you can go back to doing some of these needed surgeries, but you have to do it under these conditions.”

Edwards is in regular communication with Ghali, according to a KTBS 3 TV news report.

The Ouachita Citizen article on Ghali’s warnings included something very interesting – namely, that Ghali is still relying on the data model by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, a data model which has been consistently, and comically, wrong in projecting the amount of health-system resources the Wuhan virus would soak up in Louisiana and other states.

“That model shows that Louisiana is really dependent on social mitigation factors being in place through the end of May,” Ghali said. “I think that is the best model we have. The White House uses that model among others.”

Ghali noted that many, if not all, COVID-19 models underestimated the effect of social distancing measures on stemming the spread of the virus. That was the case because all models are only as good as the assumptions supporting them, Ghali said.

“That’s why those models anticipated 2 million, adjusted them down to 1 million, and then recalibrated to 200,000 and lower,” Ghali said. “The fact is, that the total number of deaths are going down from what they predicted. The last one was about 60,000 to 70,000, which is significantly less than what models previously showed. But that’s a lot better than half a million or two million. The model is not totally perfect.”

Relying on a data model with such a pathetic track record to date while overseeing an economic shutdown which has resulted in more than 15 percent of Louisiana’s workers losing their jobs in less than six weeks isn’t likely to go over well with the public.

It’s increasingly possible that the matter of ending the shutdown will be taken out of Edwards’ hands. In private conversations, legislators have been debating a heretofore-obscure provision in state law which could reopen Louisiana’s economy. La.R.S. 29:724(B)(2) provides, in pertinent part, that…

(2) The legislature, by petition signed by a majority of the surviving members of either house, may terminate a state of disaster or emergency at any time. This petition terminating the state of emergency or disaster may establish a period during which no other declaration of emergency or disaster may be issued. Thereupon, the governor shall issue an executive order or proclamation ending the state of disaster or emergency.

Word has it that the Legislature is planning on reconvening its 2020 regular session on Monday, May 4. If Edwards attempts to prevent that session from reopening, don’t be surprised to see section 2 of La. R.S. 29:724(B)(2) invoked and the governor’s shutdown power wrested away. An indication the Legislature is ready to lead came last week, when a far more robust economic recovery task force was appointed by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Senate President Page Cortez.

It’s not hard to see that a major political fight is coming over the end of the shutdown. It isn’t a fight Edwards can win. He’s going to have to release his stranglehold on the state’s economy soon, or face a backlash which will color the rest of his term of office.



Interested in more national news? We've got you covered! See More National News
Previous Article
Next Article