The House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs advanced legislation this morning that could be a crucial first step in the calling of a constitutional convention. HCR56 by Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, would create a commission tasked with studying Louisiana’s current constitution and offering recommendations for the state’s governing document.
According to the resolution’s author, he has consistently heard from voters in his district who want to see the current charter overhauled in its entirety. “I have many constituents who are frustrated by so many things that are protected in the constitution and require constitutional amendments to change them,” Foil said.
While other lawmakers have unsuccessfully brought forward bills this term that would outright call for a convention, Foil believes that creation of the study commission is the best starting point for debate. “I want the public to have the opportunity to get information as to whether or not we should have a new constitution,” he said. “This also allows them to have input.”
The largest block of seats on the proposed 18-member commission would be occupied by lawmakers. Both House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia and Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, would each be tasked with appointing three current lawmakers and a retired member from their chamber to the panel. Gov. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, would select four additional members, as would the state Supreme Court’s chief justice, Bernette Johnson. In addition, representatives from the Public Affairs Research Council and the Council for a Better Louisiana would round out the membership.
The instrument would have the commission begin its work shortly after the June 6 adjournment of the regular session. According to Foil, his goal is to have the group’s final recommendations ready before new lawmakers take office in January. “The idea is to provide a report before the end of the year,” he said.
Worth noting is that a similar study commission was formed prior to the start of the 1973 Constitutional Convention. Foil said that he has spoken with the convention’s chairman, former House Speaker Bubba Henry, to seek some advice and counsel for his resolution.
Foil’s measure is next headed to House floor for debate and is expected to be heard next week. Jeremy Alford will publish Capitol Views each afternoon on Daily Report PM through the end of the legislative session. The report is also available to subscribers at LaPolitics.com.