SESSION SUSPENDED: Louisiana lawmakers halt their business amid COVID-19 concerns

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — Louisiana lawmakers have halted their 2020 Regular Legislative Session, looking to limit the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.

Legislators voted Monday to suspend their session until Mar. 31. Their decision came days after Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered public schools closed and banned events with more than 250 people.

“The public health crisis at hand has placed the Legislature in unchartered waters,” Senate President Page Cortez (R-Lafayette) said in a statement Monday. “With every decision we make, we are balancing the health and welfare of our citizens, staff, and legislators with our constitutional responsibilities.”

“While the matters being considered at the legislative session are important, nothing is more important than the safety and welfare of each and every Louisiana citizen,” House Speaker Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales) said.

The Legislature’s two-week postponement seemed imminent in the hours before lawmakers adjourned Monday. At the State Capitol, visitors got temperatures taken at the door, with guards banning anyone experiencing fevers higher than 100.4 degrees. Cleaning crews and hand sanitizer stations flocked the building’s halls. Every other seat inside committee rooms had caution tape, so those in attendance could practice the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “social distancing” policy.

“I think most likely we will have to suspend for a few weeks,” state Rep. Mandie Landry (D-New Orleans) said shortly before the adjournment vote.

“We’re interested in everyone’s health, not only of our constituents and colleagues, but all the staff that work here,” Rep. Rick Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge) told BRProud.com.

The members’ vote to go home follows growing calls from elected officials, advocacy groups, and former Louisiana health secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee.

Lawmakers maintain they will resume their session with plenty of time to meet a constitutional mandate: passing the state’s operating budget by July 1.

The 2020 Regular Legislative Session is scheduled to end June 1. Whether legislators will extend their session — or call a special session — to make up for lost time remains unclear.

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