Though there was occasional talk during the recent legislative session about calling for a constitutional amendment to reform the Louisiana Constitution, the idea got little traction from state lawmakers, who are facing reelection this fall and opted not to tackle anything too onerous.
But behind the scenes, the idea is gaining steam and good government groups are working to make such a gathering a reality, perhaps as soon as 2020 or 2021.
To that end, the Public Affairs Research Council of Lousiana will release a report in the coming weeks designed to explore and explain the issues around constitutional reform: Why it’s necessary, which parts of the 45-year-old document should be changed, and what would the impacts of reform be on the state budget.
The report has been in the works for more than a year and will be released in two parts. The first part, due out sometime in the next two weeks, will discuss what a good state constitution should look like. The second part, due in September, will be an exploration of specific changes and what they will mean for the state.
“We are not concerned about the logistics of putting on a Constitutional Convention because we think that is going to happen,” says PAR President and CEO Robert Travis Scott. “The piece that has been missing is what is in the constitution, what do you want to change, and are priorities the same as they were in the 1980s and 1990s?”
Constitutional reform is also a top priority of RESET, a newly formed coalition of good government groups, including PAR, the Council for a Better Louisiana and the Committee of 100 for Economic Development. Reset organizers are seeking to educate lawmakers and those seeking to fill the one-third of open legislative seats this fall, on policy issues and priorities needed to move the state forward.
Constitutional reform ranks high on their list because the Louisiana constitution has become an unwieldy and restrictive document that hampers the ability of the governor and lawmakers to address fiscal concerns. Since it was passed in 1974, the state constitution has been amended 195 times and has 30 specific funds that restrict how state money can be spent. At more than 72,000 words it is also one of the longest constitutions in the U.S.
“We think this report will be a fantastic educational resource,” Scott says.