In some states, courageous legislators have taken action to limit emergency powers of Governors trying to institute extreme lockdown measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Louisiana is a red state with conservatives comprising a clear majority of voters, such a response has not been forthcoming. For months, legislators have been reluctant to rescind the emergency measures ordered by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. While our state’s economy has crashed, most legislators have been silent as the Governor has ordered crowd limitations, a mask mandate and business restrictions on a variety of crucial industries.
Finally, legislators decided to call a special session to address the Governor’s mandates. It started in late September and ended, mercifully, today. This makes sense for, in the 2019 election, the voters of Louisiana sent a Democrat back to the Governor’s mansion but rewarded the Republican Party with a huge majority in the legislature. This is an effective check and balance on the powers of the executive branch.
Unfortunately, Louisiana legislative Republicans have been unwilling to listen to their constituents and are too beholden to the Governor. In Louisiana, Governor Edwards is powerful and obviously GOP state legislators are intimidated.
In this special session, it was difficult to pass even a compromise bill. Finally, on Tuesday night, a bill sponsored by State Representative Mark Wright (R-Covington) was passed. It gives legislators an opportunity to rollback portions of emergency measures after the first 30 days of a crisis. The bill allows one of the leaders of either legislative branch to call for a mailed in vote to rescind certain sections of emergency measures.
This bill is limited and does not rescind all the Governor’s emergency measures that he has issued since the beginning of this pandemic. Even this slight challenge to his authority has upset the Governor. He fumed on his radio show, “I’m not going to surrender any authority that I have to other people whose approach is entirely unreasonable. There are folks here who either believe that it’s a hoax or they want to minimize it. They think we should have everything open without restriction and no mitigation measures in place…I’m not looking for an opportunity to invite those people into to being part of the decision-making process…I will continue to make my decisions based on science.”
Basically, the Governor does not care to hear from other points of view or from elected representatives, he prefers to listen to his handpicked health advisors, or “science.” His arrogance was so breathtaking that it finally spurred Republicans into challenging the Governor.
On Friday, house Republicans signed a petition overturning the Governor’s mandates for seven days. Although it is not perfect, the petition is a breath of fresh air, finally a step in the right direction. It will undoubtedly be challenged in court immediately and might never go into effect.
The petition was needed because Wright’s bill will probably be vetoed by the Governor. The petition was the only way for House Republicans to show any success or to limit his powers before the end of their session on Friday.
In addition, the Republicans lack the votes to override his veto. While the Governor is intent to oppose any infringement of his powers, Wright’s bill is not much of a threat to his authority. According to the CEO of the Pelican Institute, Daniel Erspamer, the bill “does not go far enough to address the imbalance that exists in our current emergency powers structure.”
This bill is better than nothing, but it is not what the state truly needs right now. At this point, Louisiana needs to declare itself open for business, end all the Governor’s mandates and restrictions and try to recover from this man-made catastrophe.
With Governor Edwards focusing strictly on COVID-19 recovery and not economic recovery, we face several more months of a financial disaster.
Until the passage of the resolution, legislators have done next to nothing. This has forced thousands of state voters to become involved in a recall effort to remove Governor Edwards from office. It is their only outlet to change the political and economic situation in Louisiana.
If that does not work, voters will have to wait another three years for the next statewide elections. At that point, hopefully, the choices for legislature and Governor will be much better.
Maybe in 2023, Louisiana voters will finally elect effective political leaders for the state. Until that time, expect more businesses to close and plenty more people to leave Louisiana, such as my son who just moved to Texas for a new job.
This crisis is another painful reminder that elections have consequences, which can be catastrophic.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs locally at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and at 10:00 p.m. Sundays on PBS affiliate WLAE-TV, Channel 32, and from 7-11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990-AM & www.Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America’s Last Chance and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and on www.JeffCrouere.com. For more information, email him at [email protected]