Dear Louisiana Legislature:
We write as members of the advocacy community, heartbroken by the outbreak of the coronavirus, but with ambitious legislative agendas that many of us have been building for years.
The time to stop the community spread of COVID-19 is now. We respect the efforts of the legislature to screen entrants to the capitol building, but feel that is an insufficient response to this public health crisis. However, we strongly disagree with any approach that would suspend Louisiana’s open meetings laws as a solution.
Whether the legislature decides to further limit public participation in the legislature or not, the very nature of this virus has already created a de facto impact on democracy. Many of the people we represent work hourly jobs with no sick pay and they are already unable to afford the travel expenses associated with coming to testify and participate in the session. We represent elderly, immunocompromised, and other populations who are afraid to leave their homes to enter the building, where hundreds of people pass in and out every day. Our members and constituents are single parents or people who cannot afford child care every day, and with school closures they must stay home to care for their families. By continuing the session as planned, you are already limiting the voices of impacted people that are critical to the furtherance of our democracy.
We serve the most vulnerable people in our communities. With the session continuing as planned, we are forced to make choices between spending 100% of our time working with our communities to survive this crisis or diverting resources to participate in a legislative session to defeat legislation that we believe would make the lives of our communities more difficult in the long run. We also believe that government agencies with custody of people we represent - state prisons and local jails, for example - should be spending their resources on planning and prevention, not attending legislative hearings.
We are members of the business community, and many of us are small businesses. We have staff who are sick and are already operating at half capacity and in addition to trying to prepare our businesses for what lays ahead. Expending our limited resources to participate in a legislative session and effectively represent the voices of those who are not able to attend themselves is harming our businesses. We are faced with the decision of whether to send our staff to the legislature, when the legislature is only screening for symptomatic individuals and we are learning that the spread of this virus is possible when people are asymptomatic.
We ask that all legislative committees and both chambers of the legislature immediately stand in recess and suspend the 2020 session until at least April 15, 2020 and that you communicate this plan to the public prior to Monday morning.
Finally, you are our colleagues and community members, the sponsors of our legislation and stakeholders in our work. We want you to be well and while we understand the weight on your shoulders, encourage you to care for yourselves and your families.
- ACLU of Louisiana
- Citizen SHE United
- East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Coalition
- Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children
- Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance
- Indivisible NOLA
- Innocence Project New Orleans
- Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana
- Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
- Louisiana Budget Project
- Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights
- Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center
- Louisiana Moms Demand Action Volunteers
- Louisiana Progress
- Operation Restoration
- Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition
- Power Coalition for Equity and Justice
- P.R.E.A.C.H. Baton Rouge
- Promise of Justice Initiative
- Reentry Alliance of Louisiana
- The First 72+
- Voice of The Experienced