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Lawmaker calls bills to limit executive powers detrimental

Staff Report

The state stands to lose more than it would gain with legislation that would limit the powers of executive branch on emergency declarations, according to a lawmaker who represents the northern portion of Iberville Parish.

The move to change legislation on the emergency declarations could make it far more difficult for the state to secure relief money for future hardships, said state Rep. Jeremy LaCombe, D-Fordoche.

State Rep. Jeremy LaCombe, D-Fordoche

“A lot of colleagues are about all about pushing on the governor’s authority, but in reality, they’re playing a game of constitutional crisis,” he said. “In the event this is played through to its entirety or if the law is suspended, you would have local parish presidents and local governments trying to enter into contracts and deal with FEMA, and it just doesn’t work that way.”

Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, and state Senate President Page Cortez, called lawmakers back into session at the end of September to discuss ways to give the legislative branch a bigger role in the emergency declaration process, among other issues in the session that must end Oct. 28.

LaCombe fears any major change could lead to a much bigger standoff.

“If you have the majority of the people come forward in one body – house or senate – what it will end up doing is causing more of a constitutional crisis than anything else because it would not be able to suspend the emergency provisions or suspend the laws that grant the governor to do these emergency proclamations, so in the middle of a global pandemic, I don’t think it’s actually the smartest thing to do to have our entire system of government grinded down into deadlock and gridlock and putting this matter in the courts for the courts to decide how this will be,” he said.

In the process, it could jeopardize the state’s access to federal dollars, which go through the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

GOHSEP serves as the point of contact for the state for acquisition of emergency funds, LaCombe said.

“The federal government does that on purpose because they only want to deal with one person,” he said. “I’ll say what I’ve heard some of my colleagues say – even my Republican colleagues – say: Signing this petition is akin to negotiating to signing with a suicide vessel. You play this out to conclusion and go forward to do that, we stand to lose $1.8 billion in federal CARES act dollars.”

He believes a bill by Cortez that would give the legislative branch “a seat at the table,” would work far better and create a form of “checks and balances.”

“As for all of the other bills, all of the other suspension resolutions, I don’t see those going everywhere because everyone understands they’re not going to do anything more than cause more chaos,” LaCombe said.

“The emergency proclamations law was written many years ago and it didn’t envision a global pandemic as one of the things it would entail, and I don’t think anybody did. We haven’t had something like this since the Spanish Flu in 1918, so this isn’t something that comes about all of a sudden,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re used to dealing with hurricanes, but not global pandemics.”