The House and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced a measure Wednesday that would undercut the statewide stay-at-home order Gov. John Bel Edwards put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The resolution would prevent Edwards from extending the order, which is set to expire May 15, and would allow businesses to reopen even earlier without fear of fines or criminal penalties levied by state authorities.
Republican Rep. Blake Miguez, the leader of the House Republican Delegation and the sponsor of the resolution, said each parish has been uniquely affected by the public health crisis and local officials should have the authority to reopen their economies when they see fit.
“There have been some tragedies across this state,” Miguez said. “There’s been a lot of pain in people’s lives, there’s been a lot of pain in people’s livelihoods, but we have to take a balanced approach and do whatever we can as a legislature to stand with our small business community.”
Matthew Block, Edwards Executive Counsel, testified against the resolution for more than two hours during Wednesday’s committee meeting, arguing that it was little more than a partisan powerplay that would throw the state’s emergency response into chaos.
"We know there’s going to be mass confusion and a hodgepodge response in the biggest public health disaster in probably 100 years,” Block said.
The effort still has to win the support of the full House and Senate, and would likely be moot if Gov. Edwards announces next week that he will not extend the stay-at-home order.
“I’m ready to throw this thing in the trash if the governor does what’s right,” Miguez said.
In his Wednesday briefing, Edwards said he hopes the state will be ready by then, but he’ll need to review the relevant public health data.
A separate, more aggressive effort by Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) would revoke the state’s emergency declaration outright, but moderate Republicans have shied away from it, fearing that it would put more than $1.8 billion in federal aid in jeopardy.