Monday, May 27, 2024

David Specht: The Rush to Reform Louisiana’s Constitution

by David Specht

As someone who has long advocated for a thorough review and, if necessary, reform of Louisiana’s constitution, I find myself in a unique position to offer a cautionary perspective on the current push for constitutional changes.

While the desire to address the state’s fiscal challenges and streamline governance is commendable, the speed at which these proposals are being advanced during the ongoing legislative session is cause for concern.

Governor Jeff Landry’s call for a “reorganization” of our constitution, echoed by legislative leaders, underscores the urgency felt by many in addressing the complexities and shortcomings of our current governing document. However, as history has shown, the process of constitutional reform is fraught with pitfalls, and rushing through such a monumental task risks unintended consequences that could have far-reaching implications for generations to come.

The governor’s focus on attracting residents from other states and improving opportunities for Louisiana families is undoubtedly noble. Still, the devil lies in the details, particularly when it comes to fundamental rights, fiscal flexibility, and the structure of government. 

As the Pelican Institute for Public Policy rightly points out, our current constitution, with its 216 amendments and 72,000 words, has become unwieldy. A structured and deliberate approach to reform could produce a highly desirable outcome.

While the need for reform is undeniable, the current approach feels rushed, even if the proponents have thought out things. Rushing to overhaul the constitution without due consideration for its long-term ramifications risks exacerbating rather than alleviating the very problems it seeks to solve. 

This doesn’t mean we sit on our hands and hope things just work out. It is no time for “analysis paralysis.” As Daniel Erspamer, CEO of the Pelican Institute, aptly states, “Their fear mongering is getting louder and louder.”

As a state, we must resist the temptation to succumb to the pressure for immediate action and instead commit ourselves to a comprehensive, inclusive, and transparent process of constitutional review. 

This means engaging stakeholders from all sectors of society, soliciting input from legal experts and constitutional scholars, and taking the time to weigh the pros and cons of proposed reforms carefully.

As things progress this week, I urge our legislators and policymakers to heed the lessons of history and proceed with caution. 

Let us not rush headlong into constitutional changes that may have unforeseen consequences but rather take the time to ensure that any reforms undertaken serve the best interests of all Louisianans, both now and in the future.

David Specht is president of Specht Newspapers, Inc., Publisher of the Minden Press-Herald, Bossier Press-Tribune, and BIZ Magazine.

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