Louisiana GOP wants to overturn emergency declaration — and lose federal funding


Republican lawmakers in Louisiana are taking extreme measures to try to end social distancing measures in their state.

Republican state lawmakers in Louisiana are trying to repeal Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' public health emergency declaration in an effort to end social distancing measures in their state, an extreme move that would also end federal funding to help the state deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus, the Baton Rouge Advocate reported Wednesday.

The move is part of a growing trend among GOP lawmakers across the country who are trying to undo coronavirus-related public safety measures implemented by Democratic governors — before public health experts say it's safe.

Those Republican lawmakers are frustrated with the stay-at-home orders public health experts recommend to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The measures have decimated the economy, causing at least 30 million people to lose their jobs.

However, Louisiana's GOP-controlled Legislature is going a step further by trying to repeal the public health emergency altogether, even though more than 28,000 cases of the coronavirus have been reported in the state as well as more than 1,800 deaths, according to the Advocate.

Edwards' lawyer Matthew Block said that repealing the public health emergency order would end school closures and end bans on price gouging for items such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and face masks, according to an email obtained by the Advocate.

Block added that it's possible that terminating the public health emergency would jeopardize funding granted to the state for coronavirus-related measures, as well as hinder Louisiana small businesses from receiving loans from the Small Business Association.

While the Advocate reported that it's unlikely the GOP-run Legislature will revoke the order, the proposal itself is among the most extreme efforts made recently by Republican lawmakers across states.

In Pennsylvania, for example, Republican legislators unsuccessfully tried to expand what constitutes an essential business in order to reopen more types of businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

And in Kansas, Republicans tried to override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people — which the GOP elected officials said discriminated against religious groups. Kelly sued, and the state Supreme Court sided with her decision to ban mass gatherings.

Meanwhile, social distancing measures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus are broadly popular, according to multiple polls.

Polls also show that the consequences of ending the public health emergency declaration in the state would be unpopular. For example, 85% of adults in the United States say it's a bad idea to reopen schools, according to an NPR/PBS News/Marist poll released Wednesday.

And the vast majority — 81% of Americans — believe that the country "should continue to social distance for as long as is needed to curb the spread of coronavirus, even if it means continued damage to the economy," according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll released April 15.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.