After a 49-day break in the legislative session, lawmakers returned to their Capitol duties while maintaining “social distancing.” Access to the Capitol has re-opened to the public but electronic communication with the legislators is still encouraged. Given the limited time before the end of session June 1st, many non-budget, non-COVID-19 related bills have been shelved.
The most controversial measure, HCR 58 was offered by Rep. Blake Miguez to bring legislative intervention to the Governor’s stay at home orders and to begin moving certain low impacted parishes into reopening and rebuilding. Individuals, businesses, and churches are anxious to re-open. HCR 58 moved out of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee and will be heard on the House floor as early as Wednesday. More on that below.
HB 118 by Rep. Edmonds – Conservative method of planning state budget. Limits proposed expenditures to 98% of projected revenue. Passed House Appropriations HB 132 by Rep. Horton – If Congress authorizes daylight savings time year-round then Louisiana will adopt daylight savings time year-round. Passed the House HB 607 by Rep. Hodges – Minors would no longer need proof from school regarding attendance to obtain a driver’s license. Passed House Transportation HB 832 by Rep. Willard – Employer mandated paid and unpaid family leave, including a broad redefinition of “family member.” Involuntarily Deferred in House Labor HCR 58 by Rep. Miguez – Suspends provisions of the law giving the governor authority to declare a public health emergency. Passed Governmental Affairs with Amendments SB 50 by Sen. McMath – Bans cell phone use while driving. Passed Senate Transp. SB 130 by Sen. C. Henry and SB 378 by Sen. Johns – Statewide election on sports betting. Passed Senate Judiciary B Without Objection SB 218 by Sen. Cloud – Candidates for elected office must provide proof of identity when qualifying. Passed Senate & Governmental Affairs SB 433 by Sen. Mizell – Abortion facilities and other mandatory reporters of abuse required to report pregnancies of children under 13. Passed Senate Judiciary
Perhaps you have heard the rumblings surrounding the Governor's stay-at-home order. To his credit, Governor Edwards has made a series of difficult decisions from a menu of bad options, all of which involve substantial risk. I believe now it's time for each of us to proceed sensibly in crafting a personal plan to restore our lives and livelihoods. Louisiana’s faith community must have its own set of goals; pastors and congregants alike must make prudent, quality decisions regarding how they return to work and church, and when corporate fellowship should resume. Louisiana is in week seven of this shelter-in-place order. We have flattened the curve. Now, the people of Louisiana should be trusted to be wise and vigilant in the rebuilding process.
The cry for an evidence-based, safety-minded, parish-by-parish re-opening of Louisiana’s economy and Houses of Worship is not driven by selfishness or ignorance. Human nature and the instinct to survive gives rise to a duty-to-act both reasonably and responsibly. Louisiana’s working class and “non-essential” workers are nearing the end of their voluntary forbearance. Mandatory isolation and decreased community connection, coupled with high levels of uncertainty and apprehension are a perfect storm for social disruption.
Ben Franklin in 1775 warned, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
Personal liberty, as acknowledged by America’s founders, is God-given and is always balanced by personal responsibility. LFF recognizes the Church’s biblical and Constitutional authority to self-govern based on conscience and affiliated accountability. As spiritual leaders, it’s our responsibility to assist the Church in handling the next phase of this crisis wisely. Pastors across the state must now begin the discussion on what re-opening will entail, how we implement a plan best suited for our congregations, how we guard our communities, and the Church’s witness.
These considerations are suggestions as you prepare for a return to fellowship:
The physical and spiritual health of your members and the communities you serve
Our public witness
The prayerful wisdom of Louisiana’s respected faith leaders
The needs and unique circumstances within each respective congregation
Best practices based on our trusted sister churches and a congregation-wide awareness of recommendations from the CDC, state, and local governmental entities
Churches have the responsibility to decide which protocols they believe are most reasonable for in-person gatherings - with counsel. With this freedom comes great responsibility. We recommend churches in parishes still experiencing a greater intensity of outbreaks to seriously consider communication and cooperation with local officials while deciding on their path forward. Finally, the question of our fundamental rights must also be balanced by serious deliberation as it relates to the safety of congregants and the larger community, potential legal liability, potential occupancy threats by the Fire Marshal, and the potential loss of insurability if we are deemed culpable in our next steps.
In all these guidelines, note that neither I nor LFF is making a recommendation for what is the best course of action. These suggestions are simply starting the conversation and placing these considerations before you and your leadership board. I would suggest that you DOCUMENT IN WRITING all efforts to accommodate the public with your adopted safety measures. I also recommend that you post your guidelines publicly. Should an issue arise, these documented safety steps will serve you well. You can use this link - bit.ly/churchreopens - to share this email and these resources with your friends and family.