Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Legislature have spent the last five years essentially renegotiating the State Capitol’s traditional balance of powers — or imbalance, to those who believe that the legislative branch should be less deferential to the executive than it’s historically been. That the governor is a twice-elected Democrat serving alongside a Legislature that’s increasingly Republican has made the debate too often openly antagonistic.
But there’s one area where the traditional role of the governor is entirely appropriate, no matter which party he or she represents and which dominates the Legislature: emergency management.
There are good reasons for this. The executive branch is best equipped to speak with a single voice to the public and to authorities in Washington, and to take quick, well-informed action. It is the executive branch that controls the levers of government that must work in concert when disaster strikes.
That’s not the view of some GOP partisans in the Legislature, though. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, they’ve second-guessed Edwards’ strict but wise public health restrictions and challenged his right to take command and control, even as he generally steered the response well.
During the spring legislative session, they tried yet again to seize a measure of control, passing House Bill 149 by state Rep. Larry Frieman, R-Abita Springs, which would make it easier for lawmakers to play politics by restricting a governor’s authority during an emergency. Edwards wisely rejected the measure. If lawmakers return next week, we urge them not to override his veto.
There’s nothing undemocratic about the status quo; governors are duly elected by the voters of Louisiana, just as legislators are.
And you don’t go into battle with 144 generals, when one will do.