Coronavirus response reveals clear split between Republicans, Democrats in Baton

The coronavirus pandemic has caused more confusion and uncertainty than just about anyone can remember.

But one clear picture has emerged in the State Capitol: lawmakers in the two parties are offering sharply divergent prescriptions to revive the battered and bruised economy.

Republicans are focusing on using the levers of government to directly aid businesses.

“The best way to help people is for them to have a job where they can support their family. By helping small businesses, we’re putting people back to work,” said state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, of Slidell, summing up the Republican view.

Democrats want to help unemployed workers and send money to workers who earn less than $50,000 a year.

Republicans “have been really focusing on folks who have had a really tough two months instead of folks who have a really tough life,” said state Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge. “Businesses can’t flourish if the employees are not healthy.”

The different approaches have played out during the regular legislative session that ended on June 1 and during the 30-day special session that immediately followed. It will end Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Lawmakers still have to pass an annual budget that would allow state government to spend money on countless activities during the fiscal year that begins July 1. The legislators are also going down to the wire on the biggest fight this year – over whether to limit payments to car accident victims and their lawyers, with the claim by supporters that the move will lower the state’s high car insurance rates. Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed the major bill passed during the regular session, forcing conservative lawmakers to try again during the special session.

But more than anything else, how to keep alive and then resuscitate the collapsed economy has dominated proceedings in Baton Rouge since lawmakers resumed…

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