Any constitutional convention Louisiana sees could be called by our current legislature and governor, and that’s not an ideal situation.
Now, all of this talk of a possible convention comes from the Associated Press in a piece titled “Analysis: Momentum building for constitutional convention.” The Town Talk, among other venues, seems to be running with it.
BATON ROUGE — With continued struggles to stabilize Louisiana’s finances, lawmakers are turning more toward the state constitution, blaming its rigidity for years of budget woes. A growing movement aims to set the course for a constitutional convention to rewrite the governing document.
The convention legislation seems unlikely to make it through both the House and Senate this year amid competing visions of the scale of a convention, its participants and its goals.
But the broader momentum seems to be building, with bipartisan backing. If the framework for a constitutional convention doesn’t emerge from the current legislative session, the issue is expected to be prominent with candidates in the 2019 statewide elections.
The issue with our current constitution is that we re-wrote it in 1974, largely because we had too many amendments causing too many problems. In true Louisiana fashion, we have like a billion times as many amendments now.
Louisiana, you see, learned that the best way to protect special interests is to protect them in the state constitution via the amendment process. Those amendments get voted on in low-turnout elections and money gets protected from cuts. Every year, only health care and higher education see the real threat of massive defunding. These amendments are largely why.
Now, I’ve been an advocate of a constitutional convention for years now (McKay will tell you I’m positively annoying about it), but the fact is now is just an incredibly awful time to consider it. John Bel Edwards and his lackeys in the state Democratic Party and the Senate Republicans (but I repeat myself) will scuttle any good ideas, and there is very little that will get accomplished that could benefit the state.
I don’t trust our legislature and our governor enough to call for this right now. I am loathe to admit it, but our constitution as it is now is preferable to what it could be if Edwards’ influence rules over the process.
The AP story also mentions worry from some legislators about undue outside influence.
Opponents have expressed concern about opening up the constitution to outside delegates. Associations representing school boards, municipal government bodies and other groups with protected dollars in the existing document have registered objections.
Republican Rep. Barry Ivey of Baton Rouge worries about the influx of special-interest money influencing the outcome of any rewrite.
Ivey filed a constitutional convention bill, but his approach has been snubbed in favor of an alternate proposal. Ivey said he’s concerned that proposal doesn’t have enough protections to keep special-interest groups from dominating the convention and delegate positions.
Edwards is, of course, Captain Special Interest, where teachers unions and trial lawyers would reign supreme. As well, he has (some) control over the Democrats in the legislature, and Lord knows he has plenty of stooges among Senate Republicans.
Many of the Republicans in the Senate are just as liberal as the Democrats. They just happen to have an “R” behind their name and campaign on all the right things before returning to Baton Rouge each year to completely stifle any chance of actual conservative policy getting passed. They did this during the Jindal years, and they aid John Bel Edwards now by preventing him from having to make tough choices and vetoing conservative ideas he was all in favor for when he was campaigning as a Democrat in a deep red state.
A constitutional convention under these circumstances just isn’t going to help make things any better. However, there is hope if we’re seeing multiple bills filed per session. I argue that the most important issue of 2019 should be a constitutional convention, but that probably won’t have much of an effect on voters.
It’s just that John Bel Edwards needs to be out of office for us to have any shot at making it work. A narrow Republican field and a united base in 2019 will all but spell doom for his run as governor, and then the good work can really begin.