The Republican-controlled Louisiana House of Representatives on Friday overwhelmingly approved several measures aimed at limiting Gov. John Bel Edwards power during times of emergency, including a resolution that would repeal Edwards’ public health emergency for the coronavirus.
HCR9 by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder would suspend Edwards’ emergency declaration — and all the coronavirus mitigation measures that accompany it — until 30 days after the end of the current legislative session.
The House approved the resolution with a 66-23 vote, largely along party lines. It now heads to the Senate. As a concurrent resolution, Schexnayder’s proposal would not need gubernatorial approval to take effect.
The state has progressed to Phase 3 of reopening, which allows most businesses to operate at 75 percent of their capacity. Bars, sports stadiums, nursing homes and many other venues are subject to more stringent regulations. Edwards’ statewide mask mandate remains in effect.
If approved by the Senate as it is currently written, the speaker’s resolution would repeal all of those restrictions.
“This is one of the resolutions that is going to help our small businesses and help our state get moving back in the right direction,” Schexnayder said in support of his resolution.
The House also granted approval to SB 29 by Senate President Page Cortez after making significant changes to the bill. In its original form, the bill would have created a 10-member legislative committee with greater oversight over the governor’s disaster declaration process, but no additional authority to shape or repeal those proclamations. The House amendments would give that committee the authority to block the renewal of the governor’s disaster declaration after 30 days.
The bill now returns to the Senate, where the upper chamber will have the opportunity to review the House amendments. It is one concurrence vote away from the governor’s desk.
Republican legislative leaders have made reigning in Edwards’ executive power the No. 1 priority for this special session. GOP House members have filed more than a dozen pieces of legislation seeking to limit the governor’s emergency powers through various means.
The House swiftly approved many of those bills Friday, but none of them cleared the chamber with the 70 votes needed to override a likely veto by Edwards.
Edwards opposes all of them. He has frequently argued that the state can’t respond to an emergency by committee — especially when the members of that committee do not believe that they are facing an emergency.
“There is not a reasonable discussion to be had with people who believe right now in Louisiana that we shouldn’t have a public health emergency in place, or mitigation measures in place, or restrictions in place in order to slow the spread and protect public health,” Edwards said.