Governor’s emergency powers remain focal point of special session

Staff Report

BATON ROUGE – Republican lawmakers have been critical of Gov. John Bel Edwards for his communication during the coronavirus.

Their remarks come as legislators work in a special session in which they hope to take a bigger role in the decision-making process during on restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Sen. Rick Ward

Republicans said they receive decisions on the restrictions within minutes before Edwards announces them in press conferences. They also believe they need a better explanation on those decisions.

Lawmakers in the state Senate are open to more legislative voice in the decision, but they do not want authority to halt an emergency order from the governor.

State Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, said he does not oppose the idea of legislative input, but said it may not fall in line with the state constitution.

“I think that we can do some things to inject ourselves into the conversation via statutory changes, but I am not really sure we can take away executive authority with any of the legislation out there without running afoul of separation of powers,” he said. “I am watching all the instruments as they move through the process.”

The remarks came almost a month after Edwards issued an executive order that brought Louisiana into Phase 3 of recovery, which loosened seating capacity guidelines for some establishments. He also received criticism for keeping bars closed until positivity ratings dropped under 10 percent for two consecutive weeks, which paved the way for Iberville and West Baton Rouge to open in the past two weeks.

Republican lawmakers – including House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Senate President Page Cortez -- said at the start of the session that they “want a seat at the table” to determine future decisions.

The current restrictions remain on the books until Friday.

The 30-day special session continues until Oct. 28.