September 17th is a historic day. On this date in 1787, the delegates of the Constitutional Convention met for the last time and signed our nation’s governing document, and then it was sent to the states for approval. The seven Articles comprising of 4,543 words that make up the Constitution, outlined how our nation should be governed. Today, the Constitution not only includes these seven Articles, but also 27 amendments, the first ten of which are known as the Bill of Rights.
Despite its old age and brevity, the American Constitution is seen as a model to many countries throughout the world. Its genius of dividing power between three branches of government and radical commitment to protecting the rights of people has made the Constitution something certainly worth celebrating.
But the American Constitution isn’t the only constitution governing citizens. All 50 states also have constitutions which lay out how states should be governed. Louisiana adopted its first constitution in 1812, the same year it became a state.
Since then, Louisiana has had 11 constitutions, the most recent of which was adopted in 1974. Unlike the American Constitution, which is concise and has been slow to change, the Louisiana Constitution is 132 pages long due to many additions made to it over the years.
Instead of simply outlining a structure of government for the state of Louisiana, the constitution is rife with special provisions detailing everything from how much motor vehicles should be taxed to establishing a Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation Fund. In fact, the Louisiana Constitution has 13,000 words devoted simply to how Louisiana should spend its money while the American Constitution is just 7,500 words with all of the amendments included.
These numerous special provisions create a difficult situation for Louisiana lawmakers when navigating the budget process. In fact, due to all of the special provisions, lawmakers only have control over roughly 10 percent of the states spending. Is it any wonder that Louisiana seems to find itself in a budget crisis year after year?
Our Founding Fathers were wise enough to understand that the Constitution didn’t need to spell out every detail of how the country should be run or how people should live their lives. Their genius was understanding that this document was needed to protect their hard-won freedom and preserve it for themselves and their posterity.
Louisiana should borrow the ideas of those that came before and create a new Constitution based on liberty and a balance of government, not one steeped in taxing tables.
As we take this Constitution Day to reflect and admire the people who came together to protect our freedom all those years ago, let us also hope our current leaders in Louisiana can learn from those who gave us the gift of liberty.