La. lawmakers start 30-day special session on COVID-19 measures

Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Louisiana legislators began a 30-day special session Monday with more than 70 agenda items — including how to replenish local government and unemployment trust funds.

Lawmakers will also consider tempering Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ power to declare medical emergencies — and limit his ability to restrict business activity amid the pandemic.

“Every action we take over the next thirty days regarding reopening our state will be about one thing and one thing only — the people of our state,” state House Speaker Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales) said at a news conference with ranking GOP lawmakers Monday evening.

“The governor certainly has authority, so we don’t want to infringe on those authorities,” said state Senate President Page Cortez (R-Lafayette). “But the Legislature is a co-equal branch of government. We do believe we should have a seat at the table.”

“We’re tired of sitting on the sidelines,” state Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell) said in an interview Monday. “We want to be in the game.”

One idea they will consider proposes crafting an elected council to vote on whether a governor’s public health order can last longer than 30 days. Other lawmakers hope to undo Edwards’ emergency measures outright.

Edwards has argued his moves align with medical advice, including from the White House’s coronavirus task force.

“Some of the people who demand that we reopen part of the economy are the ones who say, ‘Don’t tell us to wear a mask,'” the governor said Wednesday, after a roundtable meeting with White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx at LSU. “You can’t do those things successfully without accounting for both.”

The governor has also criticized the length of the Republican-led Legislature’s special session 70-item special session agenda — which also includes discussion on K-12 funding, after Hurricane Laura damaged schools and displaced students from the Lake Charles area in late August.

The Legislature must end its special session no later than Oct. 27 at 6 p.m.

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