Voters need amendment help

SEVEN AMENDMENTS — Early voting starts Friday and continues until Oct. 27. Louisiana voters have to decide the fate of seven proposed state constitutional amendments, and some background is available here.

Louisiana legislators love to propose amendments to the state constitution, and they have served up seven more for the Nov. 3 statewide election ballot. Thanks to the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana and others, voters can get detailed explanations about the amendments.

Many amendments to the state constitution could have been handled through state statutes, but lawmakers like to keep issues more complicated for ordinary citizens. PAR summed up this year’s amendments well.

“Only one of them is related to the crisis at hand,” the non-partisan agency said. “With 197 amendments already on the books, this may be the year we surpass 200 total amendments added to the Constitution since its adoption in 1974.”

The U.S. Constitution is 232 years old, and it has only 27 amendments. So Louisiana definitely has too many amendments and voters should reject as many of them as they can when they are proposed.

Amendment 1 wants to know if we support an amendment declaring that, to protect human life, a right to abortion and the funding of abortion shall not be found in the state constitution.

Supporters want the extra protection against abortions this change would provide. Opponents say the state already has enough legal protection against abortions. Each individual can decide how he or she feels about this one.

Amendment 2 deals with how the production of oil and gas should be assessed. Parish tax assessors and officials with the oil and gas industry got together to propose this amendment that settles a problem over which they have disagreed. For most folks, if those two groups agree, it’s OK with them.

Amendment 3 would allow the state’s Rainy Day Fund to be used for state costs associated with a disaster declaration. Supporters say the state needs this tool. Opponents say this amendment didn’t get enough debate, and that should happen before the amendment gets into the constitution.

I agree with the opponents on this one.

Amendment 4 seeks to limit the growth of the state’s expenditure limit for the state general fund. Supporters say the amendment slows down how much can be added to the state budget. Opponents say the state already has an expenditure limit that is working, and legislators’ options would be too limited.

This looks like another amendment that needs more study before it makes it into the constitution.

Amendment 5 would allow local governments to enter into cooperative endeavor agreements with new and expanding manufacturing interests for payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT). Those governments wouldn’t have to wait 8 or 10 years until those interests start paying taxes after their tax exemptions expire.

Parish tax assessors don’t like the amendment and opponents think industries could end up paying lower taxes. However, the Louisiana School Boards Association, the Police Jury Association, the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association and business organizations support the amendment.

Local government officials who are elected by local voters should be allowed to decide if they need these up-front payments.

PAR said one argument for the amendment is that the PILOT program is locally run and has the flexibility to be tweaked and improved by the Legislature over time. It added that PILOTS are used successfully in other states.

Amendment 6 would allow homeowners 65 or older with higher incomes to qualify for the property tax assessment freeze on their homes. The current income level to qualify for a freeze is $77,030. This amendment would increase that to $100,000.

Supporters say higher income homeowners deserve the break. Opponents say fewer people will be paying local property taxes that are already low, and local governments will lose a stable tax base.

I qualify for this break, but plan to vote against it. My city and parish property taxes last year totaled only $815.40. I get an awful lot of services for that money.

Amendment 7 creates the Louisiana Unclaimed Property Permanent Trust Fund to preserve the money that remains unclaimed by its owners.

Supporters say the amendment protects money that belongs to individuals. Opponents say the state has been able to use some of those funds for needed services and no one has been unable to get money to which they are entitled.

We probably don’t need this one, but voters will obviously like it.

A proposition to allow sports betting by parish is also on the ballot. This does expand gambling in Louisiana, but supporters say the state would be losing revenues because other states are already allowing sports betting.

Make your choice on this one, but I’m leaning against it.

Persons wishing additional information on all of the amendments can find it in detail at www.parlouisiana.org/publications.

A good rule of thumb on amendments is probably — when in doubt, reject them.

More from this section

  • Updated

Whenever in doubt, don’t do it. That guiding principle has served me well over 60 years as a journalist when I thought twice about whether I should use something I had written.

  • Updated

Some of the election changes made in Louisiana for the Nov. 3 presidential election need to become a regular part of the voting process. The state’s voters made it clear that they like early voting, and they made wider use of mail-in voting.

  • Updated

Someone please tell Louisiana’s Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry that the coronavirus is spreading across the United States at an alarming rate. Landry lost a court fight last week over Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ COVID-19 orders that are saving lives, but the AG plans to …

  • Updated

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal health care legislation commonly known as Obamacare, appears destined for new life. The U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on the law yet, but comments by justices at a Tuesday hearing indicate a majority of them think the law is worth saving.

  • Updated

Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican President Donald Trump Saturday, according to The Associated Press, but most of us know this election is far from over. Trump has made it clear he isn’t going quietly, trying as many legal maneuvers as possible.

  • Updated

President Donald Trump and about half the voters in this country aren’t happy about the fact they don’t know whether Trump has won a second term. This is only the third time in the last 40 years that a winner hasn’t been declared the day after the election.