Gov. Edwards updates Hurricane Zeta preparations, announces lawsuit to defend emergency coronavirus orders

State News

BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a briefing Monday afternoon that a lawsuit has been filed to defend his emergency orders currently in effect in response to a petition filed by House Republicans in a bid to force him to drop them.

Click here to view the governor’s motion filed Monday in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge.

Edwards called the petition filed Friday to nullify his public health emergency declaration — and all restrictions tied to it, such as the statewide mask mandate and business restrictions — unconstitutional.

Edwards announced on October 8 that he would be keeping Phase Three coronavirus restrictions on businesses and activities in place for another month. The current extended order is set to expire on Friday, November 6.

The petition sent to Edwards was signed by 65 of the House’s 68 Republicans. The governor lashed out at them as ignoring the risks of the virus outbreak for an “unconscionable” partisan political ploy.

“That petition is reckless, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible and I’ll also say it is unconstitutional,” Edwards said Monday. “Simply put, the Louisiana constitution doesn’t allow for one chamber of the legislature to overturn a public health emergency declaration issued by the governor. Not only that but the statute they rely upon requires prior consultation with public health experts from the Louisiana Department of Health. That did not happen.”

“What’s more, many of the people who put their names on that petition know that the petition is a bad idea and also that it’s unconstitutional, and I know that because they told me. And I know the attorney general got a lot of attention this weekend for, I guess I’ll be a little bit more charitable than saying he lied to you, but he certainly changed his mind from a September attorney general’s opinon that was put out by his office. But over the weekend, he was saying the petition itself, once it secured more than 53 members in the House signatures, that it overrode my order and that the proclamation was no longer in place. Well, that’s not what the statute says and he should check his own opinions and he would have known better than to say what he said this weekend.”

“That’s why I told you Friday and again today that that proclamation remains in place.” Edwards continued.

To emphasize that point, Edwards pulled up the relevant portion of Attorney General Jeff Landry’s opinion to show on a monitor in order to point to the specific wording.

“He clearly says that petition action alone isn’t enough to overturn my public health emergency. What that statute contemplates is that if there is enough signatures on a petition, that I would then issue a proclamation ending the previous proclamation that created the public health emergency, so I guess he now disagrees with himself. I’m not sure.”

Click here to view the opinion released by AG Landry on September 8 on the legislature’s authority to terminate an emergency order under the Louisiana Health Emergency Powers Act and the Louisiana Homeland Security and emergency Assistance Disaster Act.

Landry sent the following statement on Saturday on the House of Representatives’ petition to terminate the public health emergency:

The emergency powers act and the emergency health powers act are written to outline what extraordinary powers are granted to the Governor during a declared emergency. A termination clause is included outlining a simple process for pressing the stop button. Immediately upon termination, the emergency powers cease and the Governor’s powers revert to the ordinary powers afforded the Governor as outlined by our Constitution and laws. The termination process is effective immediately, unless provided otherwise in the petition, when a petition is signed by a majority of the surviving members within either body of the Legislature, the Senate or the House. The termination of emergency powers does not require any additional action other than the signed petition. Upon completion of the signed petition, the Governor is directed to issue a proclamation informing the public of the termination.

Statement released by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry on Saturday, October 24

Edwards made the comments during a media briefing in which he also addressed preparations and the possible impact from Hurricane Zeta, which is expected to make landfall in Southeast Louisiana as a Category 1 hurricane sometime Wednesday evening. The governor said he has issued an emergency declaration ahead of the storm.

Tropical Storm Zeta strengthened into a hurricane early Monday afternoon – the 11th of the 2020 Atlantic season.

Zeta, the 27th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, formed Sunday. By 3 p.m. ET Monday, the storm was about 105 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph.

Hurricane Zeta is expected to weaken as it moves over the Yucatan Peninsula.

Once Zeta passes the peninsula and moves over the southern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, the NHC says it will likely strengthen again. The storm is expected to approach the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday at or near hurricane strength.

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