We wish we had some progress to report with respect to efforts by Louisiana’s legislature and others to reopen the state and end John Bel Edwards’ economic shutdown, but frankly, at the moment there aren’t many hopeful signs afoot.
First, there is the status of Rep. Blake Miguez’ HCR 58, the resolution which would suspend Edwards’ emergency powers to keep businesses shut down and would then put the effort to reopen the economy largely in the hands of local governments. It was hoped that last night the resolution could be heard in the House on an expedited schedule, but it ran into procedural issues with House rules that couldn’t be overcome. We’re told that supporters of the resolution think they have well more than the 53 votes needed to pass it on the House floor, but that vote won’t take place at this point until Wednesday.
Before then, on Monday Edwards will make an announcement as to his plans for whether to reopen the economy when his current emergency declaration runs out on May 15, which is next Friday. Word we’ve heard at the Capitol is Edwards is more likely than not to extend the emergency to June 1 and thus not take Louisiana into the federal Phase 1 reopening.
What this would mean is the House would have two days from that announcement before voting on Miguez’ resolution. Should it pass, and what is happening now and what will happen with increasing intensity between now and Wednesday will be Edwards’ people threatening House members that a “yes” vote will doom them to lose any and all local projects in the state’s capital outlay budget the rest of the time he’s governor, meaning it might not even pass, would be at least another week before the resolution would go in front of a Senate committee and then the Senate floor.
In the Senate the resolution might have a less certain future than in the House.
Realistically, the earliest the resolution would pass might be sometime around May 20. If Edwards extends his declaration, the best anyone could expect is almost two more weeks of an economic shutdown.
Meanwhile, the stories of personal and financial ruin continue to mount. Business after business in the state is closing up shop permanently.
We talked to one state legislator this morning who expressed shame at the fact the legislature is utterly ineffective in giving relief to the people who make Louisiana work, because so far its leadership has been utterly incapable of standing up to the governor.
That legislator noted yesterday’s manufactured controversy, which Joe Cunningham illuminated here at The Hayride, over legislators being paid per diems for days they’ve been recessed, was a clear put-up job intended to distract the public from the ignominious performance of the governor’s people during the committee hearing on Miguez’ resolution, and to throw a wet blanket over the momentum that hearing and the subsequent vote to move the resolution forward. The per diem issue was a glitch in the Legislature’s processes owing to special circumstances, but given that Edwards has spent more than $600 million with virtually zero fiscal controls on Louisiana’s COVID-19 response, a few thousand dollars here and there to legislators is a fairly picayune item to worry about.
But it wasn’t just the legislators Edwards and his allies have attacked. U.S. Rep. Garret Graves committed the sin of asking some rude questions about Edwards’ shutdown and virus response, and here was what he got for his trouble…
— Richard Carbo (@richardacarbo) May 6, 2020
From that came this…
The Legislature now has the entire U.S. House delegation, save Cedric Richmond, on the record in favor of reopening the state. The president is on record favoring the reopening of Louisiana on a parish-by-parish basis. Both Senators have made statements in favor of that approach. And yet the governor shows no sign of relenting despite zero demonstrable evidence that Louisiana’s healthcare system is overwhelmed or is under any threat of being overwhelmed by the Wuhan virus.
The real answer here is not to wait until Wednesday for a House floor vote on Miguez’ resolution, and then waiting another week for the Senate to perhaps pass it. The answer is for the majority of the House to follow through on its commitment to signing Rep. Alan Seabaugh’s petition to un-declare the state’s emergency, and for House Speaker Clay Schexnayder to give Edwards an ultimatum – bring Louisiana into a Phase 1 reopening of the economy effective May 15, or have his emergency powers taken from him without any further ado by force of that petition being filed.
So far, the expectation would be that Edwards would call Schexnayder’s bluff. Which is fine. Louisiana’s economy has suffered quite enough under the ministrations of this governor, and while an end to his emergency might involve the loss of some small pittance in federal recovery dollars it would bring the benefit of sparing the people of Louisiana the next plague of state-sponsored idiocy – Edwards’ army of 700 $14-per-hour contact tracers who will attempt to place our people on individual house arrest out of suspicion they might have been in proximity of someone with the virus. Nobody seems to understand what an unmitigated cockup that will be, but they’ll surely find out soon enough if this new plan is put into effect.
The state legislator we talked to this morning wondered whether fighting all this is even worth it given how comparatively green the pastures are in states like Tennessee, Texas, Florida and Georgia – all of whose economies will be reopened weeks before Louisiana’s ever is. That’s the real existential question for Louisiana in the long term, because while the Legislature dithers and watches Edwards continue his death-grip over our private sector, many of those professionals and entrepreneurs whose livelihoods have been destroyed in this state will ultimately recognize they don’t have to stay here.
Louisiana is dying, from a far more dangerous cause than the coronavirus. The question is whether there is sufficient collective courage among our public officials to save it. Today that is woefully uncertain.