It seems every time Louisiana holds a major election voters are asked to entertain a slew of proposed amendments to the state Constitution.
In some instances, the proposed amendments concerned a minor tweaking. In other cases, however, a proposed amendment entailed what we would describe as a major revision to a Constitution that once was considered the finest state Constitution in America.
Cue Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone, who has repeatedly stated he’s in favor of calling a constitutional convention to — we to have to assume — rewrite Louisiana’s Constitution. He has shared no details about the changes he would like to see made. All we know thus far is Rispone wishes to call a constitutional convention, assuming he’s elected governor in the Nov. 16 run-off election against Gov. John Bel Edwards.
On the surface, Rispone’s position should not be considered extreme under any circumstances. There are scores of Louisianians who argue the state’s Constitution needs to undergo a revision of some sort. Some folks claim the existing Constitution needs to be deep-sixed altogether and an entirely new Constitution should be written.
Before voters embrace the constitutional rewrite craze, there are a host of questions Rispone should answer. After all, he’s a candidate for governor, and he’s on record in favor of conducting a constitutional convention.
For starters, what is Rispone’s position on the Homestead Exemption? His allies in the big business community, including their army of highly paid lobbyists, have argued for years that Louisiana should do away with the Homestead Exemption.
Since the Homestead Exemption relieves homeowners from paying parish property taxes on the first $75,000 in value of their homes, it’s only reasonable for a homeowner to wonder how much money it’s going to cost them if a Rispone-led constitutional convention is successful in abolishing the Homestead Exemption.
State funding for public education comes to mind. The Minimum Foundation Program, which is set in stone in the state Constitution, guarantees a certain level of state funding for K-12 public education. The Legislature can’t cut it though lawmakers can refuse to appropriate any money for a cost-of-living adjustment for the MFP.
Would Rispone support abolishing the MFP and simply give the Legislature the sole authority to decide exactly how much money public education should receive from the state on an annual basis? Would better performing local school systems get more money from the state than school systems that struggle to achieve basic proficiency? Would school systems located in south Louisiana get more money from the state than north Louisiana school systems in light of a power imbalance in the Legislature that favors south Louisiana lawmakers?
The right to bear arms comes to mind, too. Just a few years ago, Louisiana voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution that strengthened gun owner rights. State Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia authored the amendment. It’s considered one of the strongest gun ownership provisions in any state Constitution across the country.
Would Rispone stand by the amendment or would he be open to abandoning it in order to get something he wanted elsewhere, such as lower taxes for big businesses?
These are just a few questions concerning just a few issues that most likely are of serious concern to more than a few Louisiana voters.
I have no idea where Rispone stands on any of it. And that’s the point.
He needs to speak up.