By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – As Covid cases across the nation soar, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is batting a perfect score so far on legal challenges to his statewide restrictions such as the mask mandate and tough limits on bars and restaurants.
Last week, a Baton Rouge judge sided with the governor in a challenge by House Republicans; Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry filed the petition by 65 of the 68 House Republicans which demanded the restrictions imposed by the governor be lifted:
Sixty-five of 68 House Republicans last month used an obscure 2003 law passed during the SARS pandemic to send a petition to Gov. John Bel Edwards directing him to cancel his virus restrictions. Morvant ruled the law in question violates the state Constitution because it doesn’t involve both chambers of the Legislature, instead allowing the House or Senate to act on their own.…Morvant said the governor’s emergency powers, granted to him by the Legislature, allow him to make decisions that have the force of law. To repeal, enact, or alter a state law, the entire Legislature — including the House and the Senate — must agree.
And so, we remain masked. That being said, Louisiana is not spiking in Covid numbers at the moment as quickly as the rest of the nation, although many feel that is coming. Numbers are rising; both case numbers and hospitalizations.
In a sign of the times, the hearing was held via Zoom; Republican lawmakers had been sharing the Zoom link on social media for days. Apparently the entire state was in the meeting and a couple of people managed to slip through the mute button and join in. The result was hysterical:
Such are the frustrations of high-stakes court hearings set in the year 2020. Morvant and the cadre of attorneys were arguing via the videoconferencing software Zoom, and only lawyers were supposed to have the ability to speak. Apparently, a member of the public had slipped through the cracks and unmuted himself. “Snide comments coming from the peanut gallery,” Morvant clarified, “are not going to be appreciated by this court.”
“Our state needs to be open,” the unidentified man said.
“If we were in open court, I would hold you in contempt and have you removed,” Morvant said, becoming agitated. “If you say anything else in this Zoom hearing, I will have you removed.”
The man kept speaking. Morvant made good on his promise. “Have that person removed,” he said. A staffer obliged.
As Morvant was taking up a series of procedural moves in the middle of the hearing, a strange noise emanated from the Zoom meeting, stopping everyone in their tracks.
“I don’t know what that was,” said Liz Murrill, Landry’s top deputy.
“I don’t either,” Morvant replied. “I wasn’t the one that invited the entire state to participate.”
Sign of the times.
As the holidays approach and numbers continue to climb, we are expecting more restrictions from our esteemed Governor and rumors about school closings are epic. I don’t want to speculate on that right now…I’ll wait and see. I feel like that’ll be coming down soon enough.
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.