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  • Writer's pictureStaff @ LPR

Gov. Jeff Landry's plan to rewrite Louisiana Constitution

Under a preliminary plan made public Wednesday, state legislators and Gov. Jeff Landry’s handpicked delegates would meet between May 20 and July 15 to rewrite Louisiana’s Constitution.In a move supported by the Governor, Rep. Beau Beaullieu, R-New Iberia, submitted House Bill 800 which outlines the process for overhauling Louisiana's current constitution adopted 50 years ago.

Before the convention can convene, the proposal must get approval from two-thirds of each legislative chamber; however, Landry doesn’t yet have the votes yet to do so, particularly in the Louisiana Senate.

Should it pass, the outline would have 144 state lawmakers, along with 27 other people Landry would select, to run the constitution-writing process. The convention would convene in the House of Representatives’ chamber, if they don’t run out of space at the state Capitol.Public and private funds may be used to pay for the convention’s activities, though private donors would be required to disclose their names and the amount of their donations.Voters' rights to approve any new constitution the convention delegates write will not change. Should legislators finish their proposal, it would be on the November ballot and could go into effect in 2025. HB 800 calls for the convention to start two weeks before the Legislature’s current law-making session ends on June 3, which could create scheduling nightmares for lawmakers.

Typically voting on dozens of bills a day from May- June, lawmakers like Senate President Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, aren’t willing to speed up the Senate’s work to go into a constitutional convention.“I’m not interested in rushing through the process” of the regular legislative session, Henry said in an interview Wednesday. “[All the lawmakers] need to understand what’s in the budget, and we are going to need until June 3 to do that.”

Henry also said he was “1,000% sure” senators would not be willing to stay in Baton Rouge beyond June 3 for a constitutional convention, especially if it is expected to spill into July.

Beaullieu suggested lawmakers could suspend the regular session for a couple weeks, or even  try to hold their regular session and the constitutional convention simultaneously.

Landry is expected to ask delegates to trim the current constitution down by removing sections to place in regular state law. Any language would not be removed from overall state law, nor would any new language be added during the rewriting process.

But items removed from the constitution and put into state statute would then be easier to repeal. Provisions in the Constitution require a two-thirds vote from the Legislature and approval from voters in a statewide election while statutes require a Legislative majority vote. 

Legislators have asked the governor for details of what he wants to accomplish before it comes to a vote.

“We need more clarity on what the new constitution is going to look like,” Henry said. “What’s the goal here?”

Although the governor has not provided the specifics of what he seeks to change, areas that deal with budget, taxes and civil service will likely be targeted.

While there is no draft to share with skeptical lawmakers yet, says Beaullieu, legislators are looking at forming a working group to figure out what areas of the document the convention should focus on.

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