The most conservative Louisiana Senate in memory on Sunday night spiked a resolution asking for a convention to rewrite the U.S. Constitution – a right-wing cause-célèbre for the past several years.
“This is extremely risky,” said Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, of House Concurrent Resolution 28.
HCR28, sponsored by Covington Republican Rep. Mark Wright, would memorialize the U.S. Congress “to call a convention of states” for the purpose imposing term limits on members of the U.S House and the U.S. Senate. The Louisiana House approved the resolution on May 18 with a vote of 73-14 and approval by the state Senate would have added Louisiana to the list states making the call.
Widely seen as one of the Legislature’s most conservative legislators – he was the only senator to oppose then Gov. Bobby Jindal’s selection of moderate Republican John Alario as Senate president in 2012 – Peacock said he had supported the idea of calling a constitutional convention in the past but changed his mind after doing a little more research.
Peacock pointed the 2014 comments of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who opposed invoking Article V, which allows two-thirds of the states to call for a rewrite. “Whoa! Who knows what would come out of it?” Scalia said.
Scalia is only one of the legal scholars pointing out that convention delegates wouldn’t be bound by the topics recommended by state legislatures. They raised fears that a rewrite could be hijacked by special interests bent on making self-serving changes that could be harmful for the rest of the nation.
Sen. Sharon Hewitt, a Slidell Republican and co-sponsor of HCR28, said Supreme Court justices disagree all the time. She added that she was “confident that we have enough smart people” to avoid the pitfalls some of the scholars had outlined.
The U.S. Constitution provides no guidance on how to hold a convention, leaving the whole thing up to political considerations. The only constitutional convention ever called in U.S. history was in 1787 and its charge was to promote trade between the states. But the convention tossed out the ruling document, the Articles of Confederation, then rearranged government, added a Bill of Rights and drafted the Constitution still in use today.
Common Cause, the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, reported that a number of major conservative organizations and donors have helped fund an intensified and coordinated national campaign by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, called ALEC, to call for a convention.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides that a new convention is triggered when two-thirds of state Legislatures make the call.
At least 27 state assemblies, of the 34 states needed, have filed applications seeking rewrites on various issues, such as requiring the federal government to pass a balanced budget. ALEC and its supporters have been targeting legislatures in Republican-dominant states to pass a resolution, according to Common Cause.
The Senate rejected House Concurrent Resolution 28 on a vote of 16-18.
Voting to ask Congress for a rewrite of the U.S. Constitution (16): President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette; Sens Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles; Bret Allain, R-Franklin; Louie Bernard, R-Natchitoches; Stewart Cathey Jr., R-Monroe; Patrick Connick, R-Monroe; Big Mike Fesi, R-Houma; Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge; Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell; Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales; Patrick McMath, R-Covington; Robert Mills, R-Minden; Jay Morris, R-West Monroe; Mike Reese, R-Leesville; Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge; and Glen Womack, R-Harrisonburg.
Voting against HCR28 (18): Sens Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge; Troy Carter, D-New Orleans; Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek; Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge; Jimmy Harris, D-New Orleans; Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville; Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe; Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles; Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria; Fred Mills, R-Parks; Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton; Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City; Rogers Pope, R- Denham Springs; Ed Price, D-Gonzales; Gary Smith, D-Norco; Gregory Tarver, D-Shreveport; Rick Ward III, R-Port Allen; and Bodi White, R-Central.
Not Voting (5): Sens Gerald Boudreaux, D-Lafayette; Joseph Bouie Jr., D-New Orleans; Cameron Henry, R-Metairie; Milligan and Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans.