Voters will decide fate of 14 amendments

Published 7:44 am Tuesday, October 21, 2014

One of the tougher jobs Louisiana voters will face on Nov. 4 is to decide which of 14 proposed amendments belong in the state’s constitution. State legislators have a bad habit of including amendments that could be handled more easily by statutes.

The Public Affairs Research Council (PAR) has for years helped voters sort through the pros and cons of proposed amendments, and they have done it again this year. The American Press beginning tomorrow will also discuss each of the amendments and make recommendations to its readers.

The Louisiana constitution has been amended 175 times since it was implemented in 1974, which is considered by many to be excessive. Special interests like to be protected with amendments because they are difficult to change once they are in the state’s basic document.

This year’s 14 proposed amendments were approved at the 2013 and 2014 sessions of the state Legislature. Those of a strictly local nature have to be approved statewide and in the local government jurisdiction where they apply.

Amendments 1 and 2 deal with health care, and they are considered the most important on the ballot.

The first one gives constitutional protection to the Louisiana Medical Assistance Trust Fund for nursing homes and other health care providers. No. 2 creates the Hospital Stabilization Fund that will allow the state to draw down additional federal dollars for Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for poor and low-income residents.

Five amendments (3, 7, 9, 10 and 13) deal with property. No. 3 relates to sales of property with delinquent taxes. No. 7 provides a property tax exemption for certain disabled veterans. No. 9 is a tax exemption for permanently disabled residents. No. 10 reduces the time that must lapse before vacant and blighted property can be sold. No. 13 pertains only to Lower Ninth Ward vacant property in New Orleans.

Amendment No. 4 would allow the state treasurer to invest public funds in a Louisiana Transportation Infrastructure Bank in the event a bank is created. The goal is to eventually set aside funds that can only be used for highway, bridge, port and other transportation facilities.

Amendment 5 removes the mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges. The requirement is considered age discrimination, and there is a system in place for those judges who are no longer capable of serving.

Amendment 6 would set a higher millage cap for police and fire protection in Orleans Parish.

Amendment 8 puts the Artificial Reef Development Fund into the constitution and prohibits using its money for other purposes. The money comes from grants and donations and an arrangement with oil and gas companies. Those funds have been used in the past to balance the state budget.

Amendment 11 increases the number of state departments from 20 to 21. The goal is to establish the Department of Elderly Affairs.

Amendment 12 changes the membership requirements for the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. No. 14 restricts legislators from dealing with tax rebates, incentives and abatement during regular sessions in even-numbered years.

Voters wishing additional information will get it in this space over the next seven days and can find the PAR amendment guide at www.parlouisiana.org.  The American Press will also publish a chart with its recommendations that voters can take to the polls.

The election is getting close, so it’s not too early for voters to begin studying the candidates and the issues.(MGNonline)