A small group of apparently well-funded interest groups are pushing for a constitutional convention to draft a new constitution for the state of Louisiana. Lobbyists have been hired to promote the idea, and rumors are circulating that big money will be spent on advertising and electing delegates to the convention. That’s enough to raise suspicions, but there are more reasons to be concerned about a convention — primarily that the proponents, whether in the Legislature or out, won’t say what the new constitution should contain. How better to sell an idea? Simply make it a vote for a blank slate and claim it’s the panacea for solving state budget problems without explaining how.
The complaints about the current constitution made by the proponents of House Bill 500 (the legislative instrument needed to convene a convention) include that it is too long (because of amendments voted on by the people) and that it “locks up” too much state spending. Of course, much of the spending that is locked up has nothing to do with the constitution. Mandated federal spending, contractual obligations, consent decrees, election costs and the like add up to billions. Moreover, the constitutionally dedicated fund that contains the real money is the K-12 education fund, called MFP, and most of the others are simply trust funds not dependent on yearly appropriations (Coastal Restoration, Rainy Day, various tobacco litigation funds) or have a dedicated funding source (DOTD. funded by the gas tax) or are simply too small to matter.
I haven’t heard any of my constituents screaming about the overfunding of public education or that our infrastructure is in great shape and thus we need to take money away from the Transportation Trust Fund. The proponents of HB 500 haven’t said such things either because if that’s what they’re after, it wouldn’t pass the Legislature. So what do they want? Our homestead exemption? Our education funding? The prohibition against donations of public property? To eliminate the two-thirds vote required to raise taxes? Some suspect an effort to shift the tax burden to the middle class and simultaneously preserve tax breaks for special interests. We need some answers as to what these proponents of a new constitution actually want. Until we get some truthful answers, the public should demand a "no" vote on HB 500.