Monday, October 02, 2023

October 14, 2023 Constitutional Amendments

Source: Public Domain

It's election season again! Louisianians will be headed to the polls Oct 14 to vote for a new Governor, Lt Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry as well as Commissioner of Insurance! Plus there are seats on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE Board), a few judges, and many state Senators and Representatives. Rapides Parish will also be voting for Sheriff, Clerk of Court, Tax Assessor, and several Policy Jury seats. You can find out what's on YOUR ballot at the Secretary of State's website or by going to

Along with all those important statewide and local races there are four constitutional amendments. For the past several years I have sought to provide a layman's guide to the amendments because they are (rightfully so) written in legalize in order to be factual, precise, and enforceable. Unfortunately, that means that sometimes they are not easily understood!

To guide my research I read as much as I can about the amendments as well as take in PAR's excellent guide to the amendments. However, as hard as they work to boil the language down to understandable terms, this year's guide is still 17 pages long! (Granted, that includes covering the four on the Oct 14 ballot and the four on the Nov 18 ballot.) My goal is to summarize each amendment in one or two paragraphs. So let's dive right in.
  • Constitutional Amendment 1 would prohibit the use of private funds to pay for elections in Louisiana. This came out of the COVID-19 pandemic era when elections were more expensive because of the need for protective equipment, expanded hours, and increased use of absentee ballots. A nonprofit funded by Facebook offered to help pay for the elections. But since Louisiana law is silent as to whether this is allowable or not, the Attorney General recommended that no private funds be used in public elections and to allow the legislature to address the issue. The legislature has twice passed legislation outlawing the practice and both times Governor Edwards has vetoed it. So the legislature has proposed a Constitutional Amendment to allow the people to speak to the issue. (I'm voting YES because I think private funding could skew the results by pouring more money into certain areas that might vote a certain way.)

  • Constitutional Amendment 2 would add additional levels of protection to the constitutionally protected freedom of religion. This also comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic era when Governor Edwards shut down churches while allowing many businesses to remain open. One pastor was repeatedly arrested for violating the restrictions and his case went to the Louisiana Supreme Court where charges were dismissed on a 5-2 vote. Some say we don't need this additional protection while others point to the fact that it took a Supreme Court decision (that actually was split) to preserve religious rights, so this amendment is needed. (I'm voting YES because I think I believe freedom of religion needs the greatest protections available.)

  • Constitutional Amendment 3 would require that 25% of any state surplus be used to pay down the retirement debt (or "unfunded accrued liability") for the four state retirement systems. Currently the state is required to pay 10% of surpluses to TWO of the four systems, but that requirement expires in 2029. Those against the amendment say the state has too many other priorities, such as unfunded bridge and road construction, water system repairs and other infrastructure issues and this would limit surplus monies from being used for those important projects. (I'm voting YES because paying down this liability in the short-term will free up money in the long term and make our state more financially sound.)

  • Constitutional Amendment 4 would allow local governments to revoke property tax exemptions from non-profits that lease housing and have repeated public health or safety violations. Many non-profits, such as churches, hospitals, cemeteries, etc, receive property tax exemptions because of the benefit they provide to society, including some non-profits that provide rental housing for low-income families. However, some of them have allowed their properties to fall into disrepair and actually become a danger to the residents and the public. This amendment would allow local governments to rescind the property tax exemption on a non-profit owned entity that leases their property for housing if there have been three or more safety code violations in the last 12 months for specific health and safety issues. Their tax exemption can be restored if the health and safety violations have been fixed.  (I'm voting YES because this could help eliminate "slum lord" conditions by non-profits who take the money but don't provide for the safety and welfare of the residents they are supposed to be serving.)
Well, there you have it, a brief look at the four amendments coming up on the Oct 14 ballot. As I write this, early voting has already begun and will continue through Saturday, Oct 7. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the constitutional amendments. Who knows, maybe you'll change my mind! But regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I hope everyone will educate themselves on the amendments and geaux vote!!!