A coalition of 28 business councils, alliances, lobbying groups and community organizations from across Louisiana is calling on political leaders to hold a constitutional convention to address the state’s “systemic failures.”
The coalition—which includes the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Louisiana Association of Business and Industry—released a letter Tuesday, asking state legislators to organize a convention that ensures citizen participation.
The business groups have united under the banner of a “Constitutional Convention 2020,” an effort founded by businessman Lane Grigsby.
“For decades, we have tried and failed to use the political and legislative mechanisms in place to address our core, systemic problems,” Grigsby says in a statement. “A constitutional convention is the only way we can make the impactful, long-lasting changes we need.”
Chatter about holding a constitutional convention in Louisiana has been ongoing for some time as the state Legislature struggles with another budget shortfall. At least six bills were filed at the start of this year’s regular session to host a convention in some form. House Bill 500, which has a lengthy list of legislative coauthors, calls for a limited convention. That bill is currently pending the House Appropriations Committee. The coalition recommendations amending House Bill 500 in several ways in its call for a convention.
In its letter, the coalition says experience has shown that Louisiana’s normal political, legislative and electoral process cannot solve the state’s core systemic problems such as the inability to create a consistent and reliable government, infrastructure, education system and economy.
“Our present state constitution is too detailed and prescriptive, an outlier compared to other nearby growing states,” reads the letter. “It restricts the ability of elected officials to properly maintain an effective budget and governing structure and has helped to create a culture that places far too much dependence on the hallways of the State Capitol for prosperity.”
The letter notes the constitution, at 75,000 words, is currently more than twice as long as it was in 1973 and is ten times longer than the U.S. Constitution. The state’s constitution has been amended 189 times in 44 years, the letter says, and includes 35 dedicated funds and sub-funds.
Along with BRAC and LABI, other groups supporting the call for a convention include the Louisiana Home Builders Association, Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, Louisiana Realtors, Louisiana Restaurant Association, West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce and Greater New Orleans Inc., among others.