Posts Tagged ‘John Bel Edwards’

Photo by Emin BAYCAN on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Registration opens today for Louisiana’s “Shot at a Million” lottery campaign. To enter you must be a Louisiana resident and have had at least one Covid vaccine. Prizes include scholarships for those under 18, and cash for everyone else.

The campaign is the latest effort by Governor John Bel Edwards to get Louisiana citizens vaccinated against the Coronavirus.

“We need more people to go sleeves up before we can truly end the pandemic,” Edwards said at the press conference. “’Shot At A Million’ is a reward for those who’ve already gotten vaccinated and a fun nudge for others to get the vaccine sooner rather than later.”

The prizes are funded by federal COVID dollars.

This idea of rewarding people for getting the vaccine isn’t new; for months now states have been offering incentives to get the shot which have included free crawfish, burritos, tequila shots, amusement park tickets, and hot dogs.

The concept of rewarding people for doing “the right thing” trickles on down to the school level; positive behavior incentives in schools come in the form of “bucks” or tickets handed to kids who follow dress code, open doors for others, do their homework, that sort of thing. The theory is that everyone will show good behavior in order to get the incentives and be allowed to use those “bucks” in a school store for chips, candy, or homework passes.

Currently, Louisiana is near the bottom of the vaccinated population list with only 33% of our people having taken the shot. Highest ranked? Vermont, with 64%. So in theory, someone in Louisiana stands a 1 in 1,675,152 “shot” at winning a prize in the Louisiana vaccine lottery.

We will literally gamble on anything in Louisiana.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Louisiana’s legislative session has ended and as The Advocate puts it, “the circus has left Baton Rouge.” There is never a dull moment in Louisiana politics. Here’s a quick look.

While legislators did not legalize recreational marijuana, they did legalize sports betting. The medical marijuana program was expanded, and jail time for small amounts of marijuana has been eliminated. Mandatory kindergarten passed muster, but tougher teacher retirement rules did not. Governor John Bel Edwards agreed to terminate federally enhanced unemployment benefits in exchange for raising the weekly unemployment benefit by $28.  An attempt to enact closed party primaries failed.

In other pressing issues, women will no longer pay state sales tax on feminine hygiene products or diapers.

At the last minute, legislators passed “a bill that would prohibit government agencies from refusing to issue licenses, permits, and degrees or barring access to public facilities to someone who hasn’t received a covid-19 vaccine until any of the vaccines have been officially approved by the FDA.” Meanwhile, Louisiana State University plans to have a mask mandate this fall when students return to college classes.

The session was not without tension and drama. Louisiana House member Alan Seabaugh came in conflict with Representative Malinda White over terminology in a domestic violence bill. White became contentious over Seabaugh’s proposed changes and reportedly said either “let me get my gun and finish this or I’m going to get my gun and we can finish this.” Seabaugh took that as a threat and has requested the Louisiana State Police follow up on the matter.

I am frankly shocked that Edwards is agreeing to end the subsidized unemployment benefit, however there is no question that he needs to. Businesses all over town are advertising for help, begging for help, and some are having trouble staying open because they can’t get anyone to work.  

It remains to be seen which bills will get the governor’s signature and which will meet the veto. Legislators passed one bill that is certain to receive an Edwards veto: residents would no longer have to have a permit or training to conceal carry.

That’s going to be a big no from Edwards.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As Covid cases across the nation soar, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is batting a perfect score so far on legal challenges to his statewide restrictions such as the mask mandate and tough limits on bars and restaurants.

Last week, a Baton Rouge judge sided with the governor in a challenge by House Republicans; Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry filed the petition by 65 of the 68 House Republicans which demanded the restrictions imposed by the governor be lifted:

Sixty-five of 68 House Republicans last month used an obscure 2003 law passed during the SARS pandemic to send a petition to Gov. John Bel Edwards directing him to cancel his virus restrictions. Morvant ruled the law in question violates the state Constitution because it doesn’t involve both chambers of the Legislature, instead allowing the House or Senate to act on their own.…Morvant said the governor’s emergency powers, granted to him by the Legislature, allow him to make decisions that have the force of law. To repeal, enact, or alter a state law, the entire Legislature — including the House and the Senate — must agree.

And so, we remain masked. That being said, Louisiana is not spiking in Covid numbers at the moment as quickly as the rest of the nation, although many feel that is coming. Numbers are rising; both case numbers and hospitalizations.

In a sign of the times, the hearing was held via Zoom; Republican lawmakers had been sharing the Zoom link on social media for days. Apparently the entire state was in the meeting and a couple of people managed to slip through the mute button and join in. The result was hysterical:

Such are the frustrations of high-stakes court hearings set in the year 2020. Morvant and the cadre of attorneys were arguing via the videoconferencing software Zoom, and only lawyers were supposed to have the ability to speak. Apparently, a member of the public had slipped through the cracks and unmuted himself. “Snide comments coming from the peanut gallery,” Morvant clarified, “are not going to be appreciated by this court.”

“Our state needs to be open,” the unidentified man said.

“If we were in open court, I would hold you in contempt and have you removed,” Morvant said, becoming agitated. “If you say anything else in this Zoom hearing, I will have you removed.”

The man kept speaking. Morvant made good on his promise. “Have that person removed,” he said. A staffer obliged.

As Morvant was taking up a series of procedural moves in the middle of the hearing, a strange noise emanated from the Zoom meeting, stopping everyone in their tracks.

“I don’t know what that was,” said Liz Murrill, Landry’s top deputy.

“I don’t either,” Morvant replied. “I wasn’t the one that invited the entire state to participate.”

Sign of the times.

As the holidays approach and numbers continue to climb, we are expecting more restrictions from our esteemed Governor and rumors about school closings are epic. I don’t want to speculate on that right now…I’ll wait and see. I feel like that’ll be coming down soon enough.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Louisiana is a land of many quirky laws, and leave it to our state legislators to pull out one of those to force an end to Governor John Bel Edwards public health emergency executive orders.

House Republicans have been chafing over the mask mandate for months, along with many of the other restrictions put in place by Governor Edwards on crowd sizes and which businesses can open and under what capacity.

At the end of the special legislative session last week, House GOP lawmakers used a petition against these orders to have them nullified.

From KATC news:

A statement from the house reads, “At no time since the start of the pandemic has the governor taken meaningful steps to address legislative concerns in any substantive way,” the release states. “The Legislature will make no apologies for simply standing up for the people we collectively represent. The House has exhausted every available legislative remedy and has been left with no other option but to exercise its legislative right to terminate the Governor’s emergency order.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landy issued the following statement:

“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.”

And so, controversy continues.

State Representative Alan Seabaugh spoke with KEEL Radio News, saying:

“A petition signed by a majority of members can end the public health emergency at any time,” Seabaugh says, referring to the process invoked, “Essentially, we’ve ended the public health emergency. John Bel (Edwards) doesn’t want to acknowledge that we have that power. He said at his news conference Friday, ‘I’m not going to give up my power.’ Well, it’s not his power, it’s our power (and) we gave it to him and we took it back.”

Governor Edwards calls the petition and lifting of restrictions reckless, and said “You know burying heads in the sand and just pretending that COVID isn’t a problem, isn’t going to help.”

With cases expected to rise in the coming cooler months, many are worried about the lifting of restrictions, but at the same time, people are weary of the mask mandate, the limited access to businesses, and business owners themselves are paying the price with decreased revenue. Many have had to shut down.

Governor Edwards is not expected to sign an acknowledgment of this petition and so the restrictions are still actually in place until he does, but it’s clear that we are now in some murky, gray legal area. If you are a bar owner, and you stay open after 11:00 p.m. and operate at full capacity, will you be shut down or not?  Stay tuned.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.