BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Landry and a Republican state lawmaker filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to block Gov. John Bel Edwards’ plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to Louisiana’s immunization schedule for schools and colleges.
The lawsuit from the GOP attorney general and Bossier City Rep. Raymond Crews came a day after the Democratic governor notified House lawmakers that he’s going against their wishes to enact the rule mandating some students get the vaccination for the 2022-23 school year or file paperwork to opt out of the immunization requirement.
Landry argues that Edwards’ action violates constitutional provisions that give lawmakers the power to enact laws rather than the governor. The attorney general suggests the rulemaking process outlined in state law that allows a governor to override a legislative rejection of a regulatory proposal is unconstitutional.
“The Louisiana Constitution grants the governor the power only to enforce the law, not to make it,” the lawsuit says.
Edwards sent a letter Tuesday to the House Health and Welfare Committee, notifying them that he will overrule their 13-2 bipartisan vote against the plan and enact it against their wishes. Crews is a member of that House committee and voted not to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the immunization schedule.
The governor’s office defended its actions as following the law.
“We’ve not reviewed the attorney general’s full filing, but the Louisiana Department of Health is well within its legal authority on adding the COVID vaccine to the immunization schedule, where it will be treated like all other vaccines and parents may choose to opt their children out of it,” Edwards spokesperson Christina Stephens said in a statement.
Edwards and his public health advisers have repeatedly argued that the vaccine is safe and effective and getting more children vaccinated would help save lives.
In his letter to the committee, the governor said 19 children have died from COVID-19 in Louisiana since March 2020, and he said no one in the state has died from receiving the vaccine. And he’s stressed that Louisiana’s law provides broad exemptions to the immunization schedule.
Already, many of Louisiana’s colleges have begun requiring the vaccine — or an exemption request.
Under Edwards’ plan, the addition of the COVID-19 vaccine to the state immunization schedule will only apply to age groups for whom the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given full approval for the shots. Currently, that’s students 16 and older.
But that would broaden to cover younger children if the FDA grants full backing to the vaccine for more age groups.
Across a daylong committee hearing last week, some lawmakers and members of the public repeated misinformation about the risks of the coronavirus illness and the vaccine. Other lawmakers called the governor’s plan governmental overreach that meddles in family decision-making. They said they had been inundated with complaints about adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the immunization schedule for schools.
Landry, who is considering a run for governor in 2023 when Edwards is term-limited, has repeatedly clashed with Edwards across their two terms, including in several lawsuits. Landry also has successfully challenged some of President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates.
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