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Louisiana governor can renew virus rules, at least for now

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Posted at 5:44 PM, Nov 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-04 18:44:58-05

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana judge won’t stop Gov. John Bel Edwards from renewing his COVID-19 restrictions amid a legal feud with House Republicans over the rules.

Baton Rouge-based state district Judge William Morvant refused on Wednesday to issue a temporary restraining order that would keep the Democratic governor from continuing the statewide mask mandate, business restrictions and crowd size limits that expire Friday.

Morvant instead set a Nov. 12 hearing date to hear arguments in the lawsuit over the restrictions.

GOP Attorney General Jeff Landry, representing the House Republicans who have sought to nullify the emergency order, asked the judge to keep Edwards from reissuing the rules he put in place to combat the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus.

Edwards was expected to announce Thursday which of his restrictions he intends to continue.

House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and 64 other GOP lawmakers in the House invoked a never-before-used process in Louisiana law that allows a majority of legislators in either the House or Senate to sign a petition to jettison a governor’s emergency declaration.

Edwards sued Schexnayder and lawmakers, asking Morvant to declare that the governor’s emergency rules remain intact and enforceable — and that the petition process used by House Republicans is unconstitutional. The Edwards administration continues to enforce the restrictions.

Landry is asking the judge to terminate the public health emergency as the petition required and rule the provisions are null and void.

At least 5,746 people in Louisiana have died from COVID-19, according to the state health department. Louisiana’s death toll is the nation’s fifth highest per capita, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University who are tracking virus data.

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