By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – Louisiana is a land of many quirky laws, and leave it to our state legislators to pull out one of those to force an end to Governor John Bel Edwards public health emergency executive orders.
House Republicans have been chafing over the mask mandate for months, along with many of the other restrictions put in place by Governor Edwards on crowd sizes and which businesses can open and under what capacity.
At the end of the special legislative session last week, House GOP lawmakers used a petition against these orders to have them nullified.
A statement from the house reads, “At no time since the start of the pandemic has the governor taken meaningful steps to address legislative concerns in any substantive way,” the release states. “The Legislature will make no apologies for simply standing up for the people we collectively represent. The House has exhausted every available legislative remedy and has been left with no other option but to exercise its legislative right to terminate the Governor’s emergency order.”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landy issued the following statement:
“The emergency powers act and the emergency health powers act are written to outline what extraordinary powers are granted to the Governor during a declared emergency. A termination clause is included outlining a simple process for pressing the stop button. Immediately upon termination, the emergency powers cease and the Governor’s powers revert to the ordinary powers afforded the Governor as outlined by our Constitution and laws. The termination process is effective immediately, unless provided otherwise in the petition, when a petition is signed by a majority of the surviving members within either body of the Legislature, the Senate or the House. The termination of emergency powers does not require any additional action other than the signed petition. Upon completion of the signed petition, the Governor is directed to issue a proclamation informing the public of the termination.”
And so, controversy continues.
State Representative Alan Seabaugh spoke with KEEL Radio News, saying:
“A petition signed by a majority of members can end the public health emergency at any time,” Seabaugh says, referring to the process invoked, “Essentially, we’ve ended the public health emergency. John Bel (Edwards) doesn’t want to acknowledge that we have that power. He said at his news conference Friday, ‘I’m not going to give up my power.’ Well, it’s not his power, it’s our power (and) we gave it to him and we took it back.”
Governor Edwards calls the petition and lifting of restrictions reckless, and said “You know burying heads in the sand and just pretending that COVID isn’t a problem, isn’t going to help.”
With cases expected to rise in the coming cooler months, many are worried about the lifting of restrictions, but at the same time, people are weary of the mask mandate, the limited access to businesses, and business owners themselves are paying the price with decreased revenue. Many have had to shut down.
Governor Edwards is not expected to sign an acknowledgment of this petition and so the restrictions are still actually in place until he does, but it’s clear that we are now in some murky, gray legal area. If you are a bar owner, and you stay open after 11:00 p.m. and operate at full capacity, will you be shut down or not? Stay tuned.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.