La. lawmakers advance COVID-related bills ahead of hurricane-related recess

State News

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Louisiana’s Republican-led Legislature continues tapping away at the COVID-19-related restrictions ordered by the state’s Democratic governor.

Efforts to revoke state health orders stand one Senate floor vote from reality. A Senate panel voted Tuesday — without objection or discussion — on a plan to halt crowd restrictions, bar restrictions and statewide mask mandates through Nov. 30.

“People are ready to get back to just a little bit of normal life,” state House Speaker Clay Schexnayder (R-Gonzales) told a Senate judiciary committee. “I think this would give it to them for a little while. We can adjust and move from there and make it positive.”

A House budget committee advanced a bill that would grant $25 million in federal funds to Louisiana bars. The money would come from the CARES Act-funded, state-run Main Street Recovery Program.

“Is this picking winners? Sure,” state Rep. John Stefanski (R-Crowley) said. “But it’s picking winners out of those who have been hit the hardest. I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

Stefanski’s bill still requires support from the full House, a Senate panel and the full Senate.

Starting Wednesday, Louisiana’s labor department will get federal money of its own. Loans will keep unemployment checks going to Louisianans who seek them, after the pandemic drained most of the state’s unemployment trust fund. The fund, which held $1.1 billion in March, has fallen to a $600,000 balance this week, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

Conservative lawmakers stress they will not tax businesses extra to pay off the loans, leaving plans for how to repay the federal government uncertain.

Legislators will pause their business Wednesday and return to their home districts, in preparation for Hurricane Delta, set to hit the Gulf Coast later in the week.

House and Senate members will likely return next week, leaving them with two weeks left to work. Their self-summoned special session must end Oct. 27. by 6 p.m.

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