The petition to reopen Louisiana which was finally, at long last, signed by a majority of Louisiana House members this morning – just before this writing we were told it had 54 signatures – is going to be heralded as a success coming as the product of great legislative leadership. That press release hasn’t popped just yet; we’ll include it in an update to this post when it surfaces.
The House Republican Delegation, which as an organization has been pushing for a petition to reopen the state for months only to be shut down by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, was somewhat muted in their announcement…
Today, Republicans in the Louisiana House combined previous efforts and joined together to sign one petition, stopping the Governor’s unprecedented expansion of executive power under his never-ending COVID-19 Emergency Declaration.
This petition from the House of Representatives has the endorsement and support of the House Republican Delegation.
House Republican Delegation Chairman Blake Miguez issued the following statements:
“When any emergency process lasts this long, the public deserves transparency. The Governor should be providing more information and data, not more mandates and restrictions. We trust Louisianans to keep their families, neighbors, and customers safe.”
“For months, Republicans in the House worked tirelessly, exploring every available option to reopen Louisiana safely. We have repeatedly asked Governor Edwards to share additional information with our constituents and explain his endless restrictions on their families, churches, and businesses. Unfortunately, it’s become clear the Governor will not surrender his temporary emergency powers. His refusal to give the people of Louisiana (through their elected representatives) a voice in the discussion of how to move our state forward is unacceptable.”
Of course, Schexnayder only a week ago was adamant that a petition was unconstitutional. That’s what he said in a meeting he organized with several private citizens he and other House members berated for having criticized his actions on social media.
And Schexnayder’s political consultant Lionel Rainey, who almost assuredly will be the author of the release claiming credit for the petition, said the same thing at that meeting…
We’ll be told that previous petitions were unconstitutional but this one is not.
Which is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Louisiana.
Our sources tell us Schexnayder’s petition only bars Gov. John Bel Edwards from reinstating a public health emergency declaration for a week, but the language gets cute – and this could end up making for at least a little bit of entertainment at the back end of the state’s unnecessary economic cataclysm brought on by Edwards’ shutdowns and Schexnayder’s overt timidity in refusing to back a petition to reopen the state.
Because the one-week period begins when Edwards signs off on the petition.
As state law signifies, the governor is required – the word is “shall” in the statute – sign a declaration dissolving his emergency when presented with the petition. But Edwards has signified that he would refuse to do that because he thinks the idea of the petition is unconstitutional. Edwards has offered several items of reasoning for that, some of which you’ll hear parroted in the audio files above by Schexnayder and Rainey.
None of those arguments are very persuasive. The chief one is that the petition is flawed because it’s only the majority of one house of the Legislature and not both. But the law under which the petition is afforded as an option to one house was passed by both houses and signed by the governor. And the presumption is that the governor does not have the power to impose restrictions and mandates as he has in the case of COVID-19; he only has that power under emergency circumstances, which are extraordinary.
The petition is an expression by the legislature that there is no longer a consensus that those emergency circumstances justifying the governor’s extraordinary powers are in effect. As such it returns the state to constitutional rule rather than violating it.
But that’s a question which will be litigated. And while it’s litigated, the state’s attorney general Jeff Landry is quite likely to march this petition into a court of law seeking an injunction which reopens the state. That injunction is very likely to be granted.
Which puts Edwards in an interesting position. If he thinks he would win in court, he could fight Landry and refuse to act on the petition. If he doesn’t, he could sign off on it, take his medicine for seven days and then declare a new emergency. But if the state doesn’t have the makings of a COVID-19 spike in that time, a new emergency containing mandates and restrictions might be a political hand grenade with the pin pulled out.
The maneuverings around which could provide a little bit of entertainment.
But nobody gets credit for bold leadership or success in statesmanship at this point. This petition should have been signed and sent to the governor months ago. Anyone attempting to pretend they’ve struck a blow for freedom at this late date simply resembles the stable boy asking for credit that he closed the barn door when all the horses are long gone and missing.
This isn’t success. It’s mopping the floor of Failure Theater after the disgusted audience has departed for home.