La. governor sues legislature to block petition, shield COVID-19 rules

State News

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Louisiana’s governor is suing the state’s House of Representatives to derail the chamber’s push to end his COVID-19 mitigation measures.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the lawsuit Monday, three days after 65 Republican legislators sent the Democratic governor a petition to halt his public health emergency order.

“The petition is reckless, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible,” Edwards said in a subsequent news conference. “I will also say it’s unconstitutional.”

The governor stresses Louisiana remains in Phase 3 of reopening, which still mandates masks and still limits occupancies at most businesses to 75 percent — except at bars, which can only open in certain parishes under a 25 percent capacity.

“The fact of the matter is, we are still in a public health emergency,” Edwards said.

But House Republicans insist their petition holds legal water, citing state law that lets either legislative chamber end a statewide emergency order through majority support. Attorney General Jeff Landry, a frequent legal foe of Edwards, has defended the GOP-led cause.

“The termination process is effective immediately, unless provided otherwise in the petition,” Landry said in a statement Saturday. “The termination of emergency powers does not require any additional action other than the signed petition.”

“I guess I’ll be a little more charitable than saying he lied to you,” Edwards replied Monday.

The governor argues the petition does nothing, because the House acted on the full Legislature’s behalf — with no Senate members signing the document. State law also requires lawmakers to consult the Louisiana Department of Health before such a petition can take effect.

“It’s misguided thinking by some members of the House,” he said.

House Republicans met with LDH before signing the petition, but the agency’s public health experts quickly discouraged efforts to undo or change Edwards’ virus-mitigation orders.

Judge William Morvant from the Baton Rouge-based 19th Judicial District Court will decide whether the petition carries weight without support from the state’s public health officers.

For now, state agencies — namely the Fire Marshal’s office and the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control — are operating as if the petition does not exist.

“I know everybody’s tired of COVID, and we’re also tired of hurricanes,” Edwards said. “But neither the virus, nor Mother Nature, is going to take that into account.”

The petition fight leaves Edwards and Landry at odds once again. The two have clashed often since they both took office in 2016. Their disputes have involved Medicaid contracts, opioid lawsuits, workplace discrimination lawsuits and escrow accounts.

You can read the governor’s full lawsuit below.

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