Louisiana legislators side with attorney general over dispute with governor

By Chandra Lye | Nov 27, 2016

BATON ROUGE — Fifteen members of the Louisiana Legislature have filed a petition regarding litigation between Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

What lies at the center of the dispute is how the governor has used executive orders. The governor has been accused of violating the state constitution by adding special protections and classification for gender identity. Those legislative members who filed the petition are on the side of the attorney general. They believe the governor has overstepped his constitutional authority, media reports state.

Attorney Chris Victory – who represents the legislators – said the filing looks specifically at which branch of state government has the authority, according to the state constitution, to make the decision to add a protected class.

“The law making body is the legislature,” Victory told the Louisiana Record. “So the legislators debate and decide important issues related to law-making and especially sensitive issues of public policy. This legal action is limited to the question of which branch of state government has the constitutional authority to make such a decision. The legislators submit that authority lies with the legislative branch alone."

Victory said that division of power was what allowed the people in the state to have power.

“That is why we have our elected representatives do that so when we disagree with them we can vote them out the next time," Victory said.

The problem as far as legislators see it has been Edwards issuing an executive order requiring all state government agencies and contractors to have Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) non-discrimination policies. The court document states that such an order would affect hundreds of state laws and regulations:

“These laws include, but are not limited to, issuance of driver’s licenses and birth certificates, coverage for health insurance benefits, access to school facilities at every level, access to scholarship opportunities, privacy protections for genetic and other information, coverage of abortion laws and others. In addition, the executive order immediately impacts and purports to change the rights and obligations in the employment relationships between the state and all its employees and retirees.”

Victory pointed out that the legislature has spent years debating the issue.

“The people of the state of Louisiana through their legislators have debated this issue. They have rejected putting it into law on multiple occasions over the last four, five, six years," he said.

Edwards has also accused Landry of blocking several state government contracts because they include language that protects those in the LGBT community. The governor’s lawsuit was rejected in a Baton Rouge court in October.

“I think when you have the attorney general standing up for what the Louisiana Constitution provides and mandates, I think that is a good thing. I think that is a good face," he said.

Edwards also has asked the court to declare that the state governor is the superior constitutional officer and that the governor’s position prevails when the governor and attorney general conflict over issues.

The case between Edwards and Landry has been set to be back in court Nov. 29.

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Governor John Bel Edwards Louisiana Attorney General State of Louisiana

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