Editor’s Note: below is a guest post from state representative Richard Nelson, a Republican from St. Tammany Parish, who was one of the first members of the Louisiana legislature to call for an end to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ shutdown. Nelson is one of more than two dozen signers of the petition to override Edwards’ emergency powers as of this writing; he provides his reasoning in this Hayride post.
Having lived and worked all over the world, I have thanked God many times that I am an American. As Americans, we are not promised riches or even happiness, but we are guaranteed freedom. Now that the Governor has decided to keep the state closed for another two weeks, we can clearly see the danger in giving one man the power to arbitrarily take that freedom away. I do not doubt that the Governor is acting with the best of intentions, but I think he is wrong. It is time for the Legislature to override his emergency declaration.
I sent the Governor’s Office a plan on March 24 to reopen the state by April 13th. I never received a response. Over the course of the last month, I have repeatedly questioned flaws and incorrect assumptions in the models the Governor has relied on to make his decisions. The questions do not get answered. Over the course of this emergency, the Governor has treated the Legislature as a complaint department to filter the demands of citizens, not as a co-equal branch of government representing the people of Louisiana. It is time to remind him that the people demand a say in their government.
The coronavirus is deadly. It has taken our family, friends, and colleagues. However, it is no longer an emergency. The serious health and economic consequences of the coronavirus can be debated and discussed through democratic means. We do not all have to be held hostage by daily press conferences to find out if we can go back to work, school, or church. We are all informed of the dangers and how to protect ourselves. Lifting the emergency order will allow every individual, business, or church to determine the appropriate response to balance the risks of the virus with continuing life. Our government should focus on informing the public and coordinating healthcare resources to support the most vulnerable.
Even if we allowed the lockdown to continue, we would still have to face future outbreaks the moment it was lifted. The Governor has failed to put forth a long-term plan because he refuses to face this reality. The coming economic crisis will steel our resolve to never again give up our constitutional rights so easily. Louisiana Revised Statute 29:724 grants the majority of either house the power to terminate the governor’s executive order by petition. My signature will be large, so the Governor can read it without his spectacles.