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Louisiana Governor and GOP Leaders Eye Revised Constitution Alongside Presidential Election

BATON ROUGE, La. — Governor Jeff Landry and Republican legislative leaders are aiming to present Louisiana voters with a streamlined version of the state's constitution alongside the upcoming presidential election on Nov. 5.

The initiative seeks to condense the state's foundational governing document, adopted through a public vote in 1974 but burdened with over 200 amendments in the past five decades. The endeavor is poised to commence during the Louisiana Legislature's forthcoming regular session beginning Monday.

"We are going to take a shot at reforming our constitution," Landry stated Thursday during a convention for the conservative Pelican Institute think tank in Baton Rouge.

While there is a widespread acknowledgment of the unwieldiness of Louisiana's constitution, there remains disagreement on the necessary adjustments. This discord has led to a protracted stalemate over convening a convention to overhaul the document.

This year, Landry and allies aim to surmount this impasse by proposing an initial step that wouldn't substantially alter state laws or protections, at least in the short term.

The plan involves streamlining the constitution by excising provisions and relocating them to a state statute, where they would remain unchanged for the time being. Landry emphasized, "The idea here is to have Louisiana's constitution act like it was supposed to... so that we finally strip out the things that don’t belong in the constitution."

However, any laws or language shifted from the constitution to statute would be subject to easier amendment or repeal processes. Provisions in the Louisiana Constitution enjoy more stringent protections, requiring a two-thirds vote in both legislative chambers and approval from voters for changes. In contrast, statutes can be amended with a simple majority vote from the state House and Senate.

Landry has yet to specify which sections of the constitution he proposes relegating to statute status. However, an advisory commission he established recommended removing much of the state's budget and tax policy from the document.

Steven Procopio, head of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, noted, "There's a lot of things, particularly in the financial section, that really should not be in there."

Rep. Beau Beaulieu, R-New Iberia, will spearhead the constitutional reform efforts in the Legislature, considering imposing a two-thirds legislative voting threshold for any changes to constitutional language moved into state statute.

Trimming the state constitution entails several steps before it reaches voters. The Legislature must vote with a two-thirds majority to hold a statewide constitutional convention to rewrite the document. Beaullieu aims to present this bill, with negotiations ongoing.

If lawmakers agree to convene a constitutional convention, Landry and Beaullieu propose a swift timeline, either during May and early June or alongside the regular legislative session.

Should a new constitution be proposed, it would appear on the Nov. 5 ballot, coinciding with the presidential and congressional races.

Landry and allies are eager for constitutional changes before the next regular lawmaking session in 2025, given the projected budget deficit, potentially necessitating cuts to public spending. Streamlining the constitution could afford greater flexibility in budgetary decisions.

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