Delegates behind Louisiana's constitution oppose rewrite

BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) - In the nearly half-a-century since Louisiana delegates drafted their state's most recent constitution, their hair has gotten more grey and a few more wrinkles have formed. Parents have become grandparents, then great-grandparents. Some have even become fathers all over again, like a certain former governor.

"Now if you'll excuse me," said former Gov. Edwin Edwards, leaving a reunion Friday between delegates from the 1973 constitutional convention, held at Juban's restaurant in Baton Rouge. "I've got to pick up my four-year-old child at preschool."

The 132 appointed and elected delegates at that convention 44 years ago molded the state's current charter, before voters approved it in 1974. Since becoming law in 1975, it has limited how tax dollars are spent. It replaced the constitution crafted in 1924.

"The constitution you wrote is almost as old as the one you replaced," he told the surviving delegates. "That's a tribute."

Since then, legislators have amended the document 189 times, not including proposed amendments rejected over the years. Current lawmakers argue the existing constitution binds their ability to balance budgets.

Reps. Franklin Foil and Neil Abramson proposed a convention earlier this year to address how the state receives and spends tax dollars. Last year, Sen. Troy Carter proposed a convention to protect higher education and healthcare funds from budget cuts. That effort also failed to get the legislative support required.

Senate President John Alario, who served as a state representative and a delegate in 1973, says legislators this spring will persist over holding another constitutional convention.

"If we were to look at anything, we might want to look at the revenue section, to see if there's a better way to handle our tax program," he said.

But Alario does not believe a constitutional convention is the right platform to address such matters today.

"I'm not sure the time is right," he said. "That sort of thing requires folks coming together and making compromises. I'm not sure that drive is there right now."

E.L. "Bubba" Henry, a Speaker of the House who chaired the 1973 convention, said today's legislators have yet to clarify the changes they would make.

“I don’t know what they really want to do,” Henry told The Advocate. “If legislators can’t agree on the legislation to eradicate the debt that we have, I don’t know what they could do in the constitutional convention that would be helpful to the state.”

Stanwood Duval, a delegate who eventually became a district court judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana, shared similar beliefs.

"People go in with the notion that the only perfect constitution is the one I write myself. That’s not going to happen," Duval said. "You have to then listen to other people and compromise where you can."

The budget for the 1973 convention neared $3 million, and the price of another constitutional convention could handily reach seven digits as well. Duval notes the cost is not refundable if the convention fails to yield a new state charter.

Don't Miss

Trending Stories

  • WVLA Local 33 News

  • WGMB Fox 44

  • WVLA Local 33 News

  • WGMB Fox44 Baton Rouge

  • BR Proud Mobile App