La. lawmakers sign petition to end COVID-19 restrictions; Gov. Edwards calls move ‘reckless, irresponsible, and unconscionable’

Updated: Oct. 23, 2020 at 6:01 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - House Republican lawmakers have signed a petition invoking state rules that allow them to put an end to Louisiana’s COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Governor John Bel Edwards, at least temporarily.

The petition was signed by 65 House Republicans Friday, Oct. 23.

Click here to read the petition.

Gov. Edwards called the petition “reckless, irresponsible, and unconscionable” during a fiery news conference Friday, Oct. 23. He also questioned the constitutionality of the petition and credited his restrictions for the plateau in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since July.

Gov. Edwards press conference

“You know burying heads in the sand and just pretending that COVID isn’t a problem, isn’t going to help,” said Governor Edwards.

“This governor when he doesn’t get his way, he turns over to fear-mongering, fear-mongering, fear-mongering,” said House GOP leader Rep. Blake Miguez.

The rule allows lawmakers to end a state of public health emergency at any time through a petition signed by a majority of members in either the state’s House or Senate. The rule also allows lawmakers to establish a period during which no other declaration of public health emergency can be issued.

“This is a message to the governor, that he needs to consider strongly what the people of Louisiana want. And we want to open our economy. We want to release that entrepreneurial spirit, which will make Louisiana great again, which will make Louisiana prosperous again.”

RELATED: Louisiana lawmakers end special session

The petition is the latest attempt taken by lawmakers to chip away at the governor’s ability to enforce restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

“And I want to say this clearly, I apologize to no one, for the decisions I have made. And I have bent over backwards to be as bi-partisan or non-partisan as I can be. And you would think, for House Republicans, it would count for something, that the actions I’m taking, are those that have been asked of me by the White House (Coronavirus) Task Force,” said Edwards.

Lawmakers argue those restrictions continue to cripple the state’s economy and pushed through legislation to limit Edwards' power during a special session. That legislation however heads to the governor’s desk, at which point he can choose to veto it.

House Republican Delegation Chairman Rep. Blake Miguez (R - Erath) tells WAFB’s Lester Duhé the petition effectively ends the public health emergency that the governor declared earlier this year and restricts Gov. Edwards from issuing any new orders for a period of seven days.

The petition would direct the governor to issue a proclamation order canceling all of his previous proclamations, which includes all the mandates for businesses and citizens across the state, according to Miguez.

He says some of the mandates Gov. Edwards would have to cancel include the statewide mask mandate requirements; capacity limits on restaurants and bars, and other restrictive measures used by state agencies to restrict business activities.

As for what’s the future for Phase 3, yes there’s confusion.

“If a majority of the surviving members of either House, which would be the House or the Senate, sign a petition, to end a public health emergency. The governor shall, he has no discretion, the public health emergency shall be terminated. And he should write a proclamation, canceling out all his other proclamations. We felt like we’ve met that trigger in the law,” said Rep. Miguez.

“Everything as I speak to you right now, is just the same as it was yesterday when I spoke to you. The proclamation remains in place, the restrictions are in place, the mitigation measures remain. The same ones that have been recommended for a long time, the ones that work,” said Gov. Edwards.

The governor says this petition does put all federal funding that the state receives through the Stafford Act for COVID-19 at risk.

Miguez says the governor is using scare tactics to get his way, like when he threatened to cut LSU Football.

By all means, it appears as though we are headed for an epic legal battle, as to what’s next.

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