Last Thursday, a state court judge struck down a 2003 Louisiana law authorizing the legislature to revoke a governor’s emergency decree with a simple vote in either house of the legislature. Obviously, this action was directed at the COVID-19 restrictions put in place by John Bel Edwards way back in March or this year. The judge’s ruling found the law to be unconstitutional because in his opinion both houses of the legislature would have to concur in revoking the Governor’s emergency decrees for such action to pass constitutional muster.
Now it is not our purpose to here rehash the merits of this case except to suggest that the Louisiana House and Senate had jointly acted when they both passed the law in 2003. Both houses in effect delegated the authority for either chamber to act for the other in the extraordinary circumstances anticipated by the statute in question, R. S. 29:768. Apparently, the judge did not see it this way, but as his written opinion is not yet available, we shall have to wait for his full legal rationale. Presumably the case will shortly be on its way to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Precisely on cue, in fact within minutes of the judge’s ruling, the media began heralding the ruling as a great victory, a total vindication of John Bel Edwards and his emergency decrees which now span nine months in duration. Per the Governor, the ruling was nothing less than “…a victory for public health.” The press then promptly reminded everyone that COVID-19 was again on the march in many states and we were, in effect, lucky to have such a far-sighted governor.
Now Republican legislators and Attorney General Jeff Landry have been fighting with John Bel Edwards over his emergency decrees for many months. He has indeed been successful in fending off these attacks so far, whether they were in the form of lawmaker petitions, lawsuits, or legislation which the Governor subsequently vetoed. But throughout it all, the real issue at hand has been continually and willfully suppressed by the media, because when properly framed this issue does not support the media’s narrative.
As Louisianans, we understand the need for emergency decrees better than most- hurricanes have taught us the point often enough. The need for curfews, street closings, and mandatory evacuations, is well understood, although we balk at implementing forced evacuations against resisting citizens. Yet these decrees typically last from a few hours to several weeks in duration, and the reason for the public emergency is easily perceived by all in the affected area. However, this is manifestly not the case with COVID-19.
In the present situation we are confronted by an insidious disease which is persistent in all climates, highly infectious, more lethal than its Coronavirus cousins (SARS, MERS, etc.), and most of all, subtle to the point that perhaps a majority of its victims never know that they were infected. COVID-19 has repeatedly made fools of government-employed medical elites, particularly the epidemiologists (folks who study the frequency and patterns of diseases within populations). Whenever you read or hear of someone who professes to know how many people have been infected by the disease or the actual death rate therefrom, you may immediately write them off as a charlatan or an idiot.
We would all have been better served from the outset of the pandemic had these medical elites simply admitted their ignorance (but let us also acknowledge that many medical doctors in the field got it right early on). In other words “Science,” as the term is misleadingly used by Democrat politicians to justify their pet causes, failed us miserably. Witness their early advice not to worry about the disease, their confinement of elderly patients in nursing homes ridden with COVID-19, their often fatal overuse of ventilators, and their failure to use effective drugs which were sitting unused on hospital shelves a few feet away from patients gasping their final breaths.
But the point that must be emphasized over and over again, which point was indeed made by our Attorney General’s lawyers on Thursday, is that we are now in the ninth continuous month of John Bel Edwards’ emergency decrees. If most of us can agree that emergency orders lasting for a few days or even weeks are justifiable, we can also agree that emergency orders issued on the authority of one single person and purporting to last for years would be exceedingly hard to justify. So one may well ask, where does this end? After all, we will soon be coming up on one year of physical, psychological, and economic hardship.
Moreover, on the most optimistic projections available, even with the recent good news most of us have another six months of waiting for a vaccine. At what point does the average citizen regain the right to work, to play, to travel to visit relatives and friends, in short to live life as he or she may choose? That is the real question before the court, and before all of us as citizens of this republic. It is the most salient question of the day, and the media has scrupulously refrained from addressing it.
Be assured this is not a question wherein one side is supported by all the medical science while the other side consists of ignorant deplorables who don’t know what’s best for them, as the media would have you believe. This is a fundamental issue which all free people must sooner or later face and ultimately decide, and the decision must be made by the people or their elected representatives.
So here we are, our daily lives circumscribed by whatever state, parish, or municipal emergency decrees are in effect where we happen to live. But in no city or parish of which we are aware are our businesses and workers free of the pernicious effects of these decrees. Many companies have closed their doors for good and many more are in peril. Food and hospitality companies are unable to operate profitably at twenty-five or fifty percent capacity. Our unemployment rate remains dangerously high and does not appear to be diminishing at anywhere near the rate that our sister states have managed to achieve, and our government tax receipts are down sharply.
And worse could be on the way. COVID-19 is on the rise. To the great misfortune of those without adequate income or savings, most Democrat city and parish officials nowadays have little to no business or work experience. They may well be inclined to simply impose stricter measures in the future, because that’s the only response they know.
Make no mistake, lifting the burdensome restrictions contained in these decrees poses real risks to the elderly and the physically vulnerable among us, and they should be protected by whatever means are necessary. But consider the infinitely worse effects of a destroyed economy, a bankrupt government, and an impoverished and demoralized citizenry, for years or decades into the future.
The LAGOP urges our members and like-minded conservatives to support the efforts of our legislators and Attorney General Jeff Landry, to turn back these ongoing emergency decrees. The sooner they are successful, the better for all Louisianans.
Louis Gurvich, Chairman
Republican Party of Louisiana