In a rare court battle between two stateelected officials, Louisiana's Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry is suing Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards to block the governor from requiring COVID-19 vaccination for children to attend schools.
Landry and state lawmaker Rep. Raymond Crews (R) filed a lawsuit in a Louisiana district court Wednesday, arguing that Edwards' plan to add the coronavirus vaccine to the immunization schedule for schools violates the state constitution.
A bipartisan panel of lawmakers on the State House Health and Welfare Committee voted 13-2 last week to reject the governor's proposal. All Republican lawmakers voted no, as well as an independent and three Democrats, the Associated Press reported. But Edwards told lawmakers on Tuesday he would move forward with the requirement, arguing the House committee's vote could not legally stop him from implementing the regulation.
Landry's lawsuit argues that Edwards' action violates provisions of the state constitution that give the legislature the power to make laws, not the executive branch. The attorney general argues that the rulemaking process outlined in state law that permits the governor to override the legislature's 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.
The governor's office told the AP that his actions were legal.
“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 spokeswoman Christina Stephens said.
Edwards' administration argues that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and that having children get vaccinated would help save lives.
In the letter informing lawmakers of his decision, Edwards said 19 children have died from COVID-19 in Louisiana since March 2020 while no one in the state has died from receiving the vaccine. He also emphasized that Louisiana provides broad exemptions to its school immunization requirements that will be available for parents that object in writing.
The governor's plan would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the state immunization schedule only for groups for whom the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has fully approved the vaccine. Currently, the vaccine is fully approved for children age 16 and older.
Should the FDA give full approval for the vaccines to be given for children under 16, the governor's plan would require them to be vaccinated as well.
Louisiana currently requires students to be vaccinated against mumps, measles, and polio before beginning public or private K-12 grade schools, day cares, universities, and colleges.