State budget takes first step toward approval

House committee includes amendment barring money for "mandatory" contact tracing

WWL Newsroom
May 21, 2020 - 3:35 pm

The Louisiana House Appropriations Committee passed Governor John Bel Edwards’ budget for the next fiscal year with an amendment that blocks state funding for COVID-19 contact tracing programs that require mandatory participation.

Amendment sponsor, Erath Representative Blake Miguez says he’s been bombarded by constituents demanding action.

Miguez explained the amendment, saying “any time our state government would require a citizen to participate against their will without their consent then we would not fund any type of programs in that manner.”

Oakdale Representative Dewith Carrier says his rural constituents are a;so concerned about contact tracing.

“They are private people, they enjoy being in a rural area being with just a few neighbors, and I can tell you one thing, they sure don’t want the government calling them and asking them questions about where they’ve been or what they do,” says Carrier.

Bossier City Representative Raymond Crews says making participation in contact tracing mandatory would undermine the fight against COVID-19.

“Voluntarily I may give you some stuff but once it becomes mandatory or I think there is some penalty for not self-isolating or you taking my child, they want to know that that is off the table,” says Crews.

A Louisiana Department of Health spokesperson told lawmakers they have no plans to arrest or penalize infected people who refuse to answer questions about who they have been in contact with.

The session ends June 1. Political analyst Bernie Pinsonat believes it is a safe bet that a special session will be needed.

“The betting money at the capitol right now is that they are going through the motions. It seems as if the House and Senate want to have a special session where they have more time to deal with the budget,” said Pinsonat.

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