Monday, October 24, 2022

Nov 8, 2022 Constitutional Amendments Overview


Source: Public Domain

I've become a rather irregular blogger, apparently. Over the past 3-4 years I've only been posting my thoughts on the Louisiana Constitutional Amendments that appear on our ballots each year. I do not claim to be an expert on the amendments at all. I simply read the various resources available and try to make an informed decision. And since I am both a pastor and an elected official, I often get asked to share my perspective - and thus this blog post. (BTW, it's ok to disagree with me. I disagree with myself sometimes! LOL!)

This year there are ELEVEN proposed amendments to the Louisiana Constitution, eight on the November ballot and three on the December runoff ballot. And, as usual, they can be a bit cumbersome. Below I am providing a very brief overview of the eight that will appear on the November 8 ballot, along with my personal recommendation. Early voting runs Oct 25-Nov 1 from 8:30AM-6:00PM daily, excluding Sunday, at the Rapides Parish Courthouse or at Kees Park Community Center in Pineville.

By the way, I get most of my information from the excellent non-partisan 21-page guide put out by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, which goes into great lengths to explain each one and give the pros and cons for each one without taking a side. I also draw on the 12-page guide from the Council for A Better Louisiana (CABL) which does offer their recommendations. Based on that research, here's my brief take on the 8 constitutional amendments that will appear on our ballot on Tuesday, Nov 8, 2022, (and I'll provide a later post on the 3 constitutional amendments that will appear on the Dec 10, 2022):

  • Constitutional Amendment 1 would allow seven different state-controlled trust funds to invest up to 65% of their funds in the stock market. Currently these 7 funds have different caps, from 0% to 35% (or 50% with 2/3 vote from lawmakers) and are largely limited to investing in low-earning instruments like government bonds, CDs, etc. (I'm voting YES because these long term trust funds need long term tools to ensure they keep up with inflation.)

  • Constitutional Amendment 2 would increase the local property tax exemption for veterans with a service-connected disability greater than 50% as verified by the VA. Currently local parishes can call for a vote to double the exemption from $75,000 to $150,000. This amendment does not call for a local vote and would give 100% exemption for 100% service-connected disabilities, $120,000 exemption for 70-99% service-connected disabilities, and $100,000 exemption for 50-69% service connected disabilities. (I'm voting YES because the sacrifices of our men and women disabled in the service of our country should be recognized and rewarded.)

  • Constitutional Amendment 3 would allow civil service employees to support political campaigns of immediate family members. Currently civil service (classified) employees are prohibited from almost all involvement in the political process, primarily based on Louisiana's sordid past of political corruption. (I'm voting NO because the definition of "immediate family member" is too broad (21 different classifications) and this could erode the public's trust in the political system. It is also opposed by most civil service organizations.)

  • Constitutional Amendment 4 would allow local water systems to waive charges for excess water use not caused by the customer. Currently the state constitution says that if the water went through the meter the customer must pay for it (outside of specific circumstances). This amendment would allow local water systems to waive the excess fees if the usage was caused by damage to the water lines outside the control of the customer - for example, flooding, ice storms, etc. (I'm voting YES because it is unfair to force a customer to pay for something outside of his/her control.)

  • Constitutional Amendment 5 would allow local taxing districts more time to decide whether to "roll forward" millages (property taxes) after assessment years. Property values must be reassessed at least every 4 years by the local tax assessor. When the district-wide assessment increases property values local governments either adjust their taxes down to generate the same revenue as previously or "roll forward" the millage to generate more revenue. (I'm voting YES because this is the only way local governments can keep up with inflation Otherwise new taxes would need to be enacted.)

  • Constitutional Amendment 6 would limit increases in property taxes to no more than 10% per year in Orleans Parish. Property values in Orleans Parish have been soaring, sometimes over 50% in the post-Katrina build-back. This has created a burden on taxpayers who have seen their property taxes increase correspondingly. This amendment would phase in property tax increases to no more than 10% per year. Although the situation appears to be unique to Orleans Parish due to post-Katrina issues, because it is a property tax issue, it has to be addressed through the constitution. (I'm voting YES because this is a reasonable approach to a unique situation.)

  • Constitutional Amendment 7 places limits on the definition of "involuntary servitude."  Currently the LA Constitution states that "slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited, except in the latter case as a punishment for a crime." The new language reads “Slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited, (but this) does not apply to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice.” While the wording seems similar, the author of the amendment says the wording was changed after he introduced it and now is overly ambiguous and he now opposes passage of it. (I'm voting NO because the author himself opposes it.)

  • Constitutional Amendment 8 would remove the requirement that those receiving a freeze on their property tax assessments have to annually recertify their income status. Individuals with 100% disabilities who also have an annual tax income of under $100,000 can have their property taxes "frozen" at the current levels, provide that they provide an annual recertification of their income. This amendment would make their frozen property tax assessment permanently without any recertification of income.  (I'm voting NO because the steps to receive this benefit are not overly onerous and provide for checks and balances in the property tax system.)
Well, there you have it! Whether you agree with me or not, hopefully my explanation helps you understand the four amendments you'll be asked to vote on this weekend. By the way, there are quite a few other races on the ballot, including US Senate, US House and Public Service Commission, plus a whole host of local races in Rapides Parish (Police Jury and School Board), plus Alexandria, Ball, Boyce, Forest Hill, Glenmora, Lecompte, McNary, and Woodworth.  You can find your sample ballot by going to the GeauxVote website.

I hope this is helpful! I would love to hear your thoughts on the amendments, even if you disagree with me! And whether we agree or not, don't forget to vote!!!