Editor’s Note: A guest post by State Rep. Tony Bacala (R-Prairieville).
On Monday the legislature made a decision to call itself into a special session to address some very specific issues that must be dealt with immediately.
The most obvious issues that will be discussed are directly related to the COVID pandemic and include the restriction imposed by executive orders, an unemployment fund which is going broke, and creating a plan to promote economic recovery.
In addition to those issues, we will be addressing problems faced by our friends in southwestern Louisiana who were impacted by Hurricane Laura. As an example, schools are closed in the area around Lake Charles, and we must ensure that students there are able to receive an education and graduate from high school on time.
The session will begin on September 28th and will end no later than October 27th , during which time we will do our best to solve many of the problems that could not be anticipated earlier in the year, but which simply cannot go unaddressed.
While my primary reason for writing this post is to let everyone know about the upcoming special session, I also need to give everyone an update on the ongoing effort to limit the governor’s executive order through a petition by the House.
Early in the pandemic, a petition was drafted which would have stripped the governor of his executive authority to issue executive orders related to COVID-19. At that time the state was under lockdown orders, and many “non-essential” businesses were not allowed to open. That same petition continued to be an option through June, July, and August, as we experienced the second spike in COVID-19 cases, which was probably more serious than the first.
Recently, the governor lessened some of the restrictions imposed by executive order, but there are still restrictions in place that are causing great hardships on many. Perhaps the worst story that I have heard lately is from a friend who had been allowed to visit his wife in an assisted living facility for the last month, but those visits were recently discontinued after the Department of Health ordered their discontinuation.
Getting to the point, with our COVID infection rate and death rate in rapid decline, I feel that it is time to lift state-mandated restrictions, and give each person in the state the freedom to make his or her own decisions about individual health and well-being. Importantly, doing so would not affect the ability of school systems to continue to mandate safe practices as each determines is necessary, and local governments could do the same based on circumstances in each community.
With facts, data, and public input in mind, I decided to sign the original petition and to also offer an alternative petition to House members. The alternate petition would impose restrictions on the governor’s ability to issue executive orders related to COVID for just 14 days, after which we would be able to evaluate the effects of opening up the state and issue a second petition if warranted.
Regarding both the original petition and the 14-day petition, neither has yet garnered enough support to be imposed, but they continue to be an option being contemplated by many legislators.
I will conclude this post by saying that any changes to the governor’s authority, either by petition or by a change in the law during the special session, is not the “first choice” for any of the members of the legislature. That we now find ourselves in a position of having to force changes on the governor is not how we would prefer state government to work, but we are left with little choice when all of our concerns fall on deaf ears.
UPDATE: To clarify, each member of the Legislature has to make a call regarding what they think the best solution is. Some believe that changing the law in the special session is a better option than is offered by the petition.