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Nine constitutional amendments on November ballot

Last Modified: Monday, June 11, 2012 6:20 PM

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Gun rights. Term limits. Pension revocation. Property tax breaks.

Voters will face a hefty list of questions in the fall election when they see the changes pushed by lawmakers for them to consider.

Nine proposals to amend the Louisiana Constitution will be on the Nov. 6 ballot after the action of the legislative session that ended last week. A term limit question also will appear, tied to other newly passed legislation.

In the most attention-grabbing item, voters will decide whether to set a tougher standard for restricting the use of weapons and whether to remove a provision that gives the Legislature explicit authority to limit concealed handguns.

Supporters say the change, sponsored by Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, and pushed by the National Rifle Association, would give Louisiana the strongest gun protection in the nation and could guard against possible future Supreme Court rulings that might affect the Second Amendment.

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal praised the proposal, saying he looks forward to voting for the amendment.

"We are adopting the strongest, most iron-clad, constitutional protection for law-abiding gun owners," he said in a statement.

Opponents say the rewritten provision would open the door to lawsuits that could nullify most of Louisiana's gun limits, including prohibitions of concealed handguns on college campuses, in churches and in government buildings. They also questioned the need for a change.

"I have not heard one issue, one single threat on the citizens of this state to bear arms," Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, a former superintendent of Louisiana State Police and opponent of the proposal, said during debate.

Also on the November ballot is a decision about whether a judge should be able to strip a public official's retirement benefits if the person was convicted of a felony related to his office.

Rep. Tony Ligi, R-Kenner, spent years trying to craft a proposal that would win legislative approval and go to voters. The benefit forfeiture would only apply to someone employed or elected after Jan. 1, 2013, and to benefits earned after that time.

Meanwhile, in most parishes, voters will be asked if they want to enact term limits on their local school boards. A proposal by Ponchatoula Rep. Steve Pugh requires the term-limit question to appear on the ballot.

If approved in a parish, local school board members there would be limited to three consecutive four-year terms, like state lawmakers. The question won't be asked on ballots in Jefferson and Lafayette parishes, which already have the limits.

Other ballot questions involve property tax breaks for homeowners and businesses.

Under one measure awaiting a decision, an existing property tax break for disabled veterans would be applied to their spouses, even if the reduction was enacted after the veterans had died.

Voters also will be asked if they want to offer a 10-year local property tax break currently given to manufacturers to certain digital media businesses, data centers, corporate headquarters and research and development firms. But those tax breaks would only be available if a series of local governing and taxing bodies, including school boards, assessors and parish councils, also agree.

Other constitutional changes offered on the ballot would change the way crime prevention districts can be enacted around the state, would change the membership on certain boards and commissions and would require more advance filing for bills involving public employee retirement.

Online: House Bills 9, 292, 497, 524 and 674 and Senate Bills 21, 82, 303, 337 and 410 can be found at www.legis.la.gov

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