Push to neuter the stay-at-home order advances in state capitol

Wednesday, May 6 is a big day at the capitol. Some lawmakers are essentially trying to go...
Wednesday, May 6 is a big day at the capitol. Some lawmakers are essentially trying to go around Governor John Bel Edwards in order to get parts of the state reopened on a parish-by-parish basis.(WAFB)
Updated: May. 6, 2020 at 9:43 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - After five hours of intense debate, a measure that would neuter Gov. John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order advanced to the house floor.

“Imagine this: the governor is a pit bull. This takes his teeth away, but it’s not turning him into a chihuahua,” Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, said. Miguez’s resolution would essentially make the stay-at-home order unenforceable by preventing the state from punishing business owners who open their doors before the order expires.

The HCR58 also encourages local governments to determine when and how their economies should re-open.

“Unfortunately, we’re having this conversation right now because our governor is being stubborn and not wanting to consider a parish-by-parish or regional approach,” Miguez told the House and Governmental Affairs committee. “We have to have this conversation and come with desperate measures out of frustration in the legislature just to save people’s livelihoods.”

The current stay-at-home order will expire on May 15. Edwards has said he hopes and expects not to extend the order beyond that, though a final decision is expected Monday.

At the earliest, Miguez said his resolution could become law on May 11. It has at least three hearings to go before it passes the legislature.

“Certain parishes are ready. Their local leaders know what’s going on and have their finger on the pulse at the local level and they’re ready to open up,” Miguez said.

Republican frustration mounted when Edwards extended the order on May 1. Lawmakers say they are also frustrated by a new state website that allows people to report businesses that are not following social distancing guidelines laid out within the order.

“It’s a tattle-tale website,” Miguez said. “Is the gestapo going to show up at your business because your competitor turned you in?”

But democrats and the administration fear a parish-by-parish approach would lead to confusing, disjointed rules. Cities in the same parish could have different policies, they said.

“There’s going to be mass confusion in a hodge-podge response to the biggest public health disaster in probably 100 years,” Edwards’ attorney Matthew Block testified.

Additionally, there is some thought the order would prevent health investigators from entering infected nursing homes or helping with decontamination. Miguez said he did not consult with the Louisiana Department of Health before drafting the legislation.

“If this resolution passes, we’re going to be relying on parish presidents in every one of these parishes to declare their own emergency and be able to take care of their needs,” Rep. Jeremy LaCombe, D-Livonia, said.

ONE-STOP-SHOP: Everything you need to know related to COVID-19

A new LSU survey found that 74% of the 1,000 people interviewed believe we should continue the stay-at-home order and continue social distancing.

“Three-quarters (74%) of respondents—including most Republicans and most Democrats in the state—said during the last two weeks of April that the U.S. and Louisiana should continue measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, such as stay-at-home orders and social distancing," the survey said.

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