La. House speaker cautions against revoking virus emergency
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — House Speaker Clay Schexnayder sought Friday to stall an ongoing effort by his fellow Republicans to revoke Gov. John Bel Edwards’ coronavirus pandemic state of emergency, saying an override would be a “grave decision with potentially dire consequences.”
Schexnayder sent letter to Republican House members discouraging support for a petition circulated by Shreveport GOP Rep. Alan Seabaugh that would remove Louisiana’s state of emergency and nullify the Democratic governor’s orders restricting activity to lessen the spread of the coronavirus.
The letter, delivered via text message, cautioned that revoking the emergency order could create legal headaches for businesses trying to recover from closures; could trigger the overrides of ongoing executive orders tied to previous natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes; and could hamper the governor’s authority to respond to any tornadoes or hurricanes that strike.
“The decisions we make in the following days and weeks could have dramatic unintended consequences for the entire state. As your leader, I simply ask that you weigh the risks before making your decision,” Schexnayder wrote.
He said his information was based on “extensive legal and constitutional counsel.”
A group of conservative Republicans is pushing the extraordinary legal maneuver, a petition that requires support from a majority of the House or Senate to revoke the state of emergency. They say Edwards has infringed on constitutional rights by enacting a statewide mask mandate, restricting business and church activity and limiting gatherings.
Monday’s start of the facial covering requirement seems to have renewed calls for the petition’s passage — even as Louisiana again has one of the nation’s fastest growing infection rates per capita.
Schexnayder noted that Vice President Mike Pence, during a Tuesday visit to Louisiana, offered the Trump administration’s support for the mask mandate. Schexnayder was among the officials who met with Pence during his trip.
“When I spoke to the vice president this week, he said that he and President Trump were in 100% support of the steps Louisiana has and is currently taking to combat COVID-19,” Schexnayder wrote. “In addition, the vice president said that both he and President Trump fully support and strongly urged us all to wear masks. They believe that wearing masks and limiting gatherings is the best thing we can do to avoid having an uncontrollable spike and having to go back into shutdown — which no one wants and our state and nation cannot afford.”
Louisiana announced another 2,179 cases of the coronavirus Friday and is averaging more than 2,000 new confirmed infections a day over the last week. Hospitalization numbers are surging, and the percentage of coronavirus tests returning positive also has alarmed public health experts.
Nearly 3,400 Louisiana residents have died from the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, according to the state health department. More than 88,000 people in Louisiana have been confirmed infected with the coronavirus since March, and the health department says more than 53,000 are presumed recovered.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe or fatal illness.
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