BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — A push to limit Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ emergency powers amid the coronavirus pandemic passed its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.
The state’s House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 9-7 to advance House GOP leader Blake Miguez’s resolution to block Edwards, a Democrat, from extending his stay-at-home order past May 15. It would also strip the governor of his power to penalize businesses that do not follow the order.
Miguez, who spent much of the five-hour hearing taking the panel’s questions, billed his legislation as a fix for businesses struggling to stay afloat.
“The intent of this is to take the teeth out of his emergency order,” Miguez said. “We have to work together very hard and to get our economy rebuilt.”
Edwards’ office condemned the legislation Wednesday. The governor’s chief lawyer, Matthew Block, compared the measure to a “neutering.”
“We know there’s going to be mass confusion and a hodgepodge response in the biggest public health disaster in probably 100 years,” Block told the House committee.
Miguez maintained that if Edwards ends the stay-at-home order May 15, the governor has nothing to worry about.
“I’m ready to throw this thing in the trash if the governor does what’s right,” the House GOP leader said. “I’m going to continue to bring this forward as long as we have a stay-at-home order in place.”
Edwards plans to decide the future of his order by May 11. He has voiced hope to sunset the order by mid-May, though he suggests his final decision hinges on advice from public health experts.
Louisiana has reported more than 30,000 COVID-19 cases, as of Wednesday. Of them, state health officials presume more than 20,000 people have recovered, while more than 2,000 have died of complications.
Miguez’s resolution heads next to the full House, where support would send it to the Senate. Should both chambers grant majority votes, the legislation would immediately take effect, as Edwards lacks the power to veto it.