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Government power explained

Posted at 2:17 AM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 03:17:26-04

As states across the nation debate whether to re-open for business, many people are asking who has the ultimate authority to make that decision.

KATC is Getting Answers to your questions about when different branches of government can override the other.

In the United States, there are three levels of government: federal, state and local.

"Under federal law, the President can only do what Congress allows him specifically to do or if the constitution specifically allows the President to do that," said Dr. Rick Swanson, a UL political scientist and constitutional law expert. "Right now, there is no federal authority for the President to order nationwide shutdown of businesses or quarantines. Going back to the 1800's, that's traditionally a role and power of the state governments to do."

Swanson believes there's some confusion over who can do what because the different governments have overlapping authority. Swanson also said some of the confusion comes from President Trump himself. Trump said he would guide governors on how to re-open their economies. Now, he's leaving that up to the individual states.

"You can't make businesses open up," Swanson said. "You can allow them to re-open, but you can't order them to re-open if they do not want to."

According to Swanson, Congress has rules that give the President some authority to protect the public's health during an emergency, but that power typically lies with the states.

"Under Louisiana law, it gives the Governor power to issue quarantines when there is a public health emergency and part of that is the Governor has authority restrict movement within the quarantine area. In this case, it's the entire state," Swanson said.

As for local governments trying to override the Governor's stay-at-home order, Governor John Bel Edwards said, "Parishes are free and mayors are free to be more restrictive than whatever restrictions I put in place by executive order or proclamation. They are not free to be less restrictive and any such order would not be valid."

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