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Alford: Is the constitutional convention chatter peaking?

You can expect to see at least six legislative instruments calling for various forms of constitutional conventions and article-specific rewrites during the Louisiana Legislature’s upcoming sessions, Jeremy Alford says in his latest column.

“This will collectively represent a high-water mark for an elected body that usually gives attention—but not approval—to only one or two such measures annually,” Alford writes. “The coming debates over altering Louisiana’s guiding charter will also dovetail with ongoing conversations about how to fix the state’s finances.”

So far, two working groups have formed at the Capitol ahead of the sessions, including the special session that convenes Monday and the regular session that starts March 12, he notes. Some individuals also are developing their own plans.

In one instance, Alford says, a group of well-known conservative donors and lawmakers have teamed up with government relations pros from business and industry to push for a limited convention focusing on Articles VI (local government), VII (revenue and finance) and VIII (education) of the Louisiana Constitution.

Recent efforts, he notes, have been mostly confined to proposals that limit the subject matter to revenue and finance. This new working group’s aim is notable because it pulls in the education article.

“The idea of tinkering with the Minimum Foundation Program funding formula gives some folks heartburn, but a restructuring of Article VIII is being discussed in other corners of the Capitol as well,” he writes.

Additionally, Ways and Means Chairman Neil Abramson—one of the most consistent advocates for a limited convention—intends to bring his own bill back again, Alford adds. Abramson’s co-authors from last year—Reps. Steve Carter, Paula Davis and Franklin Foil—seem positioned to sign on once more and collectively they’re part of another working group in the lower chamber.

There’s a bit of a different vibe in the Senate, where two members are planning to file bills calling for full-scale constitutional conventions, he writes.

And as for Gov. John Bel Edwards, Alford notes he told a gathering of student government presidents last week that he supports holding a constitutional convention. Edwards, however, opposes any convention format where the entire Constitution would be open to review.

“While everyone involved with the legislation mentioned here is still exploring options in terms of timing, any ambitions for a 2019 convention would probably have to include delegate elections and/or appointments by this coming fall,” Alford writes. “So stay tuned in on this issue, because it’s starting to crest whether you like it or not.”

Read the full column.

Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.

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