The Louisiana Legislature has returned to Baton Rouge to resume work for what remains of the 2020 session. Following social distancing protocols, legislators held committee hearings on Monday focusing primarily on the state's budget.
Legislation pertaining to life, religious liberty, and parental rights may move during this session; however, the window to advance that legislation has narrowed significantly. With barely 24 days to go, legislators must complete the budget and finish all work by June 1st.
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After announcing late last week that FDA clinical tests have identified a drug that effectively and decisively quickens the recovery for coronavirus patients, officials and analysts say that the number of new cases in Louisiana is no longer growing at an uncontrollable rate. More than 20,000 Pelican Staters have now recovered from COVID-19.
After meeting with President Trump last week, Governor Edwards also announced that Louisiana now has the capacity to process 200,000 COVID-19 tests per month. This is an important development as we head towards a relaunch of the economy.
Several Louisiana parishes with minimal COVID cases and empty hospitals are working through the logistics of plans to reopen their economies regardless of Governor Edwards’ orders.
Governor Edwards, on Friday, announced a new slate of guidelines for churches who are aiming to reopen their doors for services in the month of May. Whether these guidelines are legally enforceable is up for debate – especially after Barr released his advisory opinion restating that the Constitution has not been suspended amid the crisis. Additionally, Attorney General Jeff Landry issued this letter to Governor Edwards regarding the continued forced closures.
"As other states begin reopening and unrest in the Legislature continues, I believe many faith-based congregations will begin to meet with or without guidance. We are better served by taking a proactive approach by publishing reopening guidelines that take a phased approach to faith services restarting. Without guidance based on best practices in place, this could be disastrous."
Among the guidelines issued by the governor is a suggestion that churches hold services outdoors, when possible, to increase air flow around crowds of 25 or less.
LFF continues to urge churches to use prudence when restarting in-person services. Keeping the public safe and protecting our witness is a critical to impacting the public square. LFF is working on a Principles and Guidelines document for churches.
Among other items on the agenda for the Louisiana legislature this week, leaders of the House and Senate are believed to be exploring the merits of an idea that could override at least part of Governor Edwards’ stay-at-home executive order that keeps the state shuttered for several more weeks.
At least two dozen lawmakers have signed onto a petition to override which advocates for a phased approach to immediately reopen parishes in Louisiana that have not been dramatically impacted by COVID cases.
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