Jim Beam column:Senate election is headliner

Published 7:38 am Sunday, October 17, 2021

Voters statewide will be deciding the fate of four state constitutional amendments on Nov. 13, and Calcasieu Parish voters will ballot in a special state Senate election.

The Calcasieu special election is for Senate District 27. A vacancy was created when former Republican state Sen. Ronnie Johns of Sulphur resigned his post prior to becoming chairman of the Louisiana State Gaming Control Board.

Two other items are on the Calcasieu ballot. One is renewal of a 10-year, one-fourth percent local sales and use tax for Sheriff Tony Mancuso’s parish-wide law enforcement district. Iowa has a one-half percent sales tax renewal.

In addition to the amendments, Allen Parish has one tax renewal proposition; Beauregard has three and Vernon has 11. Cameron and Jeff Davis ballots have only the four amendments.

We talked earlier about Amendments 1 and 2, which are tax reform proposals that should have been enacted a long time ago.

If approved, Amendment No. 1 would allow a single authority to oversee the collection of state and local sales taxes. Amendment No. 2 lowers the maximum rate of individual and corporate income taxes, which is made possible by elimination of a major state tax deduction.

Amendment No. 3 would allow levee boards in Southeast Louisiana that were created since 2006 to raise up to a 5-mill property tax without voter approval. Levee districts created before 2006 already have that authority.

Levee boards have had a tax base of 5 mills since the 1800s, and that is because flood control in those areas is a constant battle. The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR) in its guide to the amendments said improvements made by the new levee districts could benefit neighboring districts.

Amendment No. 4 would allow the transfer of more dedicated funds to fix a state budget deficit. Governors, with legislative oversight, can currently take up to 5 percent of each of the state’s dedicated funds and redirect that money to the state general fund.

If the amendment is approved, it would raise the 5 percent to 10 percent. PAR in its analysis said an argument for the amendment is that a lot of the dedications were ill-advised and should never have been dedicated in the first place.

The four proposed amendments have been endorsed by good government groups, and the first two, especially, will improve Louisiana’s business climate that Tax Foundation ranks as 42nd in the country.

Three candidates are in Calcasieu’s Senate District 27 special election. They are Democrat Dustin Granger and Republicans Jacob “Jake” Shaheen and Jeremy Stine.

Granger is a financial planner and small business owner. Shaheen is a math teacher at Hackberry High School. Stine is marketing director for Stine Lumber.

When the three men qualified in July, Granger said, “Our region needs an unprecedented comeback and that’s about more than one-time dollars. I will build on the legacy of Sen. Johns, fighting for our values and our families.

“I’ll fight for increased investments in education, infrastructure, law enforcement and smart policies that bring our tax dollars home.”

Stine mentioned last year’s hurricanes and said, “As a community, our strength was tested, but we rallied together to selflessly serve one another. I’ve been in the trenches with you, and I’m ready to continue fighting for our community in Baton Rouge.

“It’s time to usher in a new generation of leadership that will do what is right for our community and fight to rebuild Calcasieu Parish better than ever.”

Shaheen said he made a last-minute decision to run for office after concluding a NASA camp he helped lead for elementary students. He told Ballotpedia, “I want to get money out of politics. Big money donors buy off our politicians and rig the system in their favor.”

There are 70 of Calcasieu Parish’s 123 precincts in District 27. Other senators who represent the parish are Republicans Mark Abraham of Lake Charles and Mike Reese of Leesville. Abraham represents 27 of Calcasieu’s precincts and Reese represents 26.

Early voting for the Nov. 13 primary begins on Oct. 30 and ends on Nov. 6. Thanks to the special Senate election, turnout in the parish is expected to be better than it would have been with only amendments and propositions on the ballot.