Editor’s Note: a guest post by Rep. Mark Wright, whose bill HB 4 would have reformed emergency management in Louisiana but was vetoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards earlier this week.
Checks and balances are a hallmark of American governance, dating back to the Federalist Papers and beyond. They’re never more important than in an emergency, and yet the actions of Governor Edwards suggest he doesn’t take that seriously. I am the author of HB4, which aimed to put in place reasonable checks on executive power, and a signatory to the House’s petition to end the most recent extension of lockdown measures. By challenging the petition as unconstitutional and vetoing HB4, he is directly admitting that there is no legislative check on his public health emergency orders.
The Governor suggests that he is opposed to our efforts because we are trying to usurp his authority. However, it’s clear that his emergency orders have taken on a legislative nature since May, and he insists that will continue until a vaccine is available. Emergency declarations were first issued to protect our hospitals’ ability to respond to COVID-19 and prevent them from becoming overwhelmed. Seven months later, we can all see rules imposed that don’t always stand up to reasonable examination or scientific evidence.
Make no mistake: your state Senators and Representatives have taken the very real health dangers of the COVID-19 crisis seriously. We have also taken seriously the direct harm imposed upon individuals and businesses by the Governor’s restrictions, and House and Senate leaders have tried to negotiate with Gov. Edwards to provide relief. We should all honor and respect the governor’s authority and responsibility, but steps that limit private property rights, religious liberty, and our ability to visit loved ones at times of need are serious matters. Unfortunately, it’s now up to the courts to decide how some of these disputes are resolved.
The Governor claims that legislators are politically motivated. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve witnessed all of my colleagues and our legislative leadership struggle to resolve these matters respectfully and in ways worthy of the public’s trust. In addition to ongoing guidance from the CDC and other government agencies, we have also studied other scientific advice by experts from Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford, which have been too often cast aside and ignored. So, the idea that we should “follow the science” rings hollow to those truly studying the issues.
The Governor should have signed HB4, and he should stop his legal challenge of the House petition. Instead, he should work together with those of us trying to create meaningful solutions for both crises we face today.