Plan For A Constitutional Convention Makes It Out Of Committee

Mar 15, 2018

Some lawmakers say Louisiana’s constitution makes it difficult to address the state’s budget crisis. So Rep. Franklin Foil (R-Baton Rouge) says it should be rewritten, at least in part. That hasn’t been done since the 1970s. 

He says one problem with the constitution is the number of dedicated funds.

“If you get your dedicated fund in the constitution, you’ve hit the jackpot because you’ll automatically get funding," he explained to a meeting of the House and Governmental Affairs committee Wednesday.

And when lawmakers have to cut the budget, those dedicated funds limit their options.

“The two places you had to go were health care and higher education,” said Franklin.

So Legislators are considering a bill to lay the groundwork for a constitutional convention in 2020. It would be made up of 105 delegates elected by the people — and anyone could run.

It would also restrict exactly what in the constitution could be changed. The parts that would be up for debate deal with local governments and their financial dependence on the state; education, including K-12 and higher-ed; and finally, fiscal issues.

“That’s where we’re dealing with the protected funds that ties our hands when we’re trying to balance the budget," he explained.

Rep. Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge) argued the Legislature is already able to amend the constitution, but noted getting two-thirds of the body to support anything is a difficult task, especially with the political divide on display over the special session.

He says if a constitutional convention is the next best thing, it needs to be fair. His concern is that when it comes to electing delegates, money from special interest groups could influence the process.

"No one is looking out for regular John Q. Public or small business," warned Ivey, "because they don’t have the funds to make sure they have their fair influence in a convention like that.”

The bill made it through the committee without objection. Its next stop is House Appropriations.

This article has been updated to reflect that the bill goes to the House Appropriations committee next.