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Sen Cleo Fields on special session to address Gov's power during emergencies, Hurricane Laura relief

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Republican lawmakers have called for a special session that kicks off Monday, September 28 and will allow state leaders to focus on how Louisiana navigates the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Laura recovery, in addition to reviewing to hundreds of bills related to various topics. 

But what stands out as one of the most critical topics to be discussed is an effort, led by Senate President Page Cortez, to try and limit the governor’s powers to declare and respond to an emergency and to expand the scope of legislative authority in such situations.

WBRZ's Nadeen Abusada spoke with Senator Cleo Fields about the special session on Monday morning, asking him to weigh in on the Republican-led effort to limit Governor John Bel Edwards' authority during emergency situations and to possibly revamp certain COVID-related protocols he's established.

In response, Senator Fields said, "At the end of the day, we as legislatures have to do what's scientifically correct, not what's politically popular. So, I would hope the legislatures would just basically sit back for a second, and let the science guide the reopening. The last thing we want to do is come here and take actually away executive powers. Because this is not the last emergency that we're going to have."

"We have to do something, but just willy nilly, taking away the governor's power in a state of emergency," Fields said, "is perhaps not the right thing."  

According to The Associated Press, Senate President Cortez indicated hopes of being more included in executive decisions related to disasters and emergencies, as opposed to simply stripping the governor's powers. 

“I think there’s a large segment of the Legislature that wants to at least have a seat at the table to discuss how the state operates” during an emergency, Cortez is quoted as saying in an Associated Press article.

When Abusada asked Senator Fields to address this, he replied, "Well, the legislature should always have a seat at the table. I do agree with that. But we have a seat at the table. We basically make the laws."

He continued by mentioning what he looks forward to debating during the session, saying, "Now, if there's anything that really needs to be done this session and that is we need to change the law whereby one body cannot overturn the governor's executive order. I think both bodies, and I think it should be by two thirds vote."

The Senator went on to describe the many other pressing issues lawmakers need to address during the session. These include shoring up the state's unemployment trust fund and rebuilding schools that were devastated by Hurricane Laura.    

The special session is expected to begin Monday at 6 p.m. and end on October 27.


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