BATON ROUGE, La. - Lawmakers debated a number of ideas Wednesday, Sept. 30 that would allow lawmakers to throw out or change certain rules Governor John Bel Edwards has put in place to help mitigate the coronavirus’ spread.
Republicans argue the governor should not have “unrestricted and unbridled” authority to create and enforce laws on his own during a public health emergency.
“I think Edwin Edwards was quoted saying, ‘Why would I be president when I can be governor of Louisiana?'" Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, said. "That is how much power we, the people, have allowed any governor who sits on the fourth floor and occupies the mansion to have.”
Lawmakers want more say in how emergencies are handled. One plan would create a council that could shoot down or change a governor’s executive order or emergency proclamation.
The council would consist of the governor, the attorney general, the state treasurer, the House speaker, and the Senate president. It could essentially rewrite the entire order, over the governor’s objections, with a 3-2 vote.
“It would give us a voice, the voice many of us feel like we do not have currently," the bill’s author, Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro, said. "It would create that line of communication.”
Another similar set of ideas would allow either chamber to veto specific rules while leaving other restrictions in place
But Democrats and the governor maintain that adding a step in the emergency process would create an opportunity for a stalemate that could prevent the state from getting timely federal assistance.
“I’m very concerned about bringing too many people into the decision-making process," Rep. Sam Jenkins, D-Shreveport, said. "I can see debate, and I can see delay at a time when people need quick, decisive decisions.”
The House and Governmental Affairs Committee will vote on each of the plans Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020
Gov. Edwards would have to sign the bills into law.