American Press endorsements: No on Amendment 7; yes on Amendment 8

Published 3:43 pm Monday, October 24, 2022

The author of proposed state constitutional Amendment 7 on the Nov. 8 ballot hopes voters reject it because wording on the ballot got changed to the point it could even be read to permit slavery. Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, wanted to remove both slavery and involuntary servitude from the constitution.

The Public Affairs Research Council in its guide to the amendments said a vote for Amendment 7 would rework the constitutional ban on slavery and involuntary servitude, allowing their use only for the “lawful administration of criminal justice.”

In a special note, PAR said the rewritten wording on the ballot has been interpreted in different ways, with varying implications. “Those conflicting interpretations have raised concerns from the bill sponsor, who said his intent was to restrict the use of involuntary servitude, not broaden it, and who said he intends to oppose the amendment,” the agency said.

Email newsletter signup

The Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) in its amendment recommendations said supporters of changing the wording in the constitution that already prohibits slavery are trying to thread a needle that makes clear slavery and involuntary servitude area constitutionally prohibited in Louisiana, but the use of inmate labor is not.

CABL said four other states have similar ballot measures and the Tennessee amendment might be helpful. It states, “Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited. Nothing in this section shall prohibit an inmate from working when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime.”

PAR said an argument for the amendment is that the current provision in the constitution is antiquated and tied to Louisiana’s history of slavery, segregation, and convict leasing. An argument against the amendment is that the new language is ambiguous and doesn’t change anything about prison conditions and allowance of prison labor.

CABL said symbolism is important and that is all the more reason to take time to get the language on this one right. It opposes the amendment and we agree. The author wants to get it right and he deserves that opportunity.

Amendment 8 removes the requirement that disabled taxpayers have to certify their income every year to receive a special tax break. PAR said property tax rates are frozen and don’t have to increase for homeowners of certain income levels who are age 65 or older; certain military veterans, people who are permanently and totally disabled and the surviving spouses of each.

However, to keep the tax rate freeze, everyone but those 65 and older must recertify their income yearly with the tax assessor. This amendment would allow those who are permanently and totally disabled and their spouses to get the same break given to those who are 65 and older.

PAR said an argument against the amendment is that requiring people who receive special assessment levels to recertify their income serves as an important check and balance to ensure they continue to meet the criteria.

CABL agrees with that argument and opposes the amendment. However, we support the amendment because we believe permanently and totally disabled people and their spouses deserve the break.