Saturday, May 18, 2024

Legislature Begins Constitutional Convention Discussion

by David Specht
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By Madison Maronge and Elizabeth White | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE–The Louisiana House Tuesday kicked off discussion of Gov. Jeff Landry’s call for a convention this spring to pare down the state’s Constitution. 

Beaullieu

HB 800, sponsored by Rep. Beau Beaullieu, R-New Iberia, calls for a limited constitutional convention and was introduced to the House and Governmental Affairs committee. The panel will not vote on the bill until next week. 

Beaullieu also introduced amendments and answered committee member’s questions about the purpose and plans for the convention. 

“This is not a rewrite of the constitution,” he said. “This a reprioritization of the constitution. We would simply be moving items from the constitution and placing them in statute, respecting the previous authors of the constitution’s language and respecting the authors of the amendments that have been placed on the constitution as well.”

One amendment requires that any changes proposed during the convention must be approved by a majority of the state House, the Senate and the 27 delegates appointed by Landry. 

Landry recently posted a list of the people he intends to nominate, mostly conservative and male, to tighten up Louisiana’s current lengthy constitution. 

“We need change,” Landry said in a Facebook post, noting that the Louisiana constitution is more than 17 times larger than the United States Constitution. Louisiana’s current constitution was drafted in 1973, and 216 amendments have been adopted since. 

Another amendment provided a timeline for the convention. The convention would start on May 20 and end on June 3, unless convention delegates vote to extend the deadline. It could not be extended past July 15. 

Lawmakers raised concerns over the timeline, saying they were worried about trying to pass other legislation while simultaneously having the convention since the Legislature’s regular Session is not scheduled to end until June 3. 

“Are there some things that need to be moved around, some language that needs to be changed so that it’s ever evolving in a living document? Yes,” Rep. Newell said. “But we also need to take our time doing what the constitution says we should be doing right now, and that’s the work of the people and digesting these 900 or so bills we have on the House side.”

Landry said he would like to have a constitution that guarantees funding for fewer state activities. He would like to have the new constitution in place by the spring of 2025, when .45 cents of the state sales tax is due to expire.

If lawmakers allow it to expire, the state would lose several hundred million dollars in revenue, and Landry would like to have more flexibility in proposing budget cuts.

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