Six Constitutional Amendments on Nov 8 Ballot– What Do They Mean?
When Louisiana voters head to the polls on November 8, they will be faced with more than just a selection for president. All of them will need to vote "yes" or "no" for six constitutional amendments. According to the Public Affairs Research Council, there have been 183 amendments to Louisiana's governing document since it was implemented in 1974.
Because they tend to be loaded with legalese, PAR releases a document that makes it easier to understand when voters are faced with making such decisions. It explains each proposal, what the current situation is, and what a vote for or against would mean for the state.
Below is a further simplification of each amendment. We strongly recommend that each voter takes the time to decide what he or she feels would be the best choice for the future of Louisiana.
The amendment outlines specific educational and/or experience guidelines required for a person to be hired as a registrar of voters in a parish. This stipulation would be added to current guidelines. Proponents believe the requirement is necessary due to the ever-changing technology and innovations that are constantly being added to the position, and that a person holding the office needs the proper training before assuming such an important role. Opponents believe the requirements could make filling the position more challenging for the more rural parishes in the state, and it may also create an advantageous situation for someone who is less qualified.
Essentially, tuition increases at public colleges must be approved by the Louisiana Legislature. If passes, the amendment would allow the governing boards of these colleges to make that decision without legislative approval. Cuts to higher education have been ever-present and deep for a number of years. This year, they saw a cut to the TOPS program. Proponents say, among other things, state colleges need this autonomy to stay competitive and increase efficiency. Opponents say, if boards decide to differentiate rates between fields of study, it may put valuable degrees outside the reach of certain students.
First, this amendment does not affect individuals or families. Currently, corporations are taxed on a tiered system (from 4-8%). Additionally, they are allowed to write off the amount they pay in federal income tax. Amendment 3 would eliminate the deduction corporations can take for federal income taxes. It would also set a state income tax rate for these corporate businesses at 6.5%. Proponents argue that the proposal lowers the tax rate to more competitive corporate tax rates nationally, broadens the tax base, and makes our system less dependent on the federal government's system. Opponents say the effects of the tax changes on businesses could be too detrimental at this time, and may not affect Louisiana's revenue. They say the timing is poor, the proposal should be part of a bigger tax reform package that can be considered at another date.
Approval of the amendment would allow the surviving spouse of any member of the U.S. Armed Forces, law enforcement official, or firefighter killed in the line of duty an exemption from 100% of the property taxes on the total assessed value of the home they live in. Currently, all citizens of the state of Louisiana are allowed an exemption from most property taxes on the first $75,000 of their primary residences.
The proposal sets up an account within the current structure that would be funded by two sources: corporate income and franchise tax revenue the state collects over $600-million a year and mineral revenue the state collects annually between $660- and $950-million. How and when the legislature can use the money in the trust is specifically outlined in the proposed amendment. For instance, a portion of the mineral revenues could pay for unfunded liabilities in the state retirement system. If the fund balance is below $5-billion, a two-thirds vote of the Legislature would be needed to use any of the money in the account for an emergency, although "emergency" is not defined. Proponents say the amendment would provide financial stability by putting limits on spending, especially in a state that is reliant on the revenue from fossil fuel. Opponents believe it may be a complicated solution to the state's fiscal issues.
Over the last few years, Louisiana has seen drastic cuts to health care and higher education because certain funds are protected under the Constitution. This proposed amendment would, essentially, change that to include five other funds and trusts that could be tapped. The Legislature could use up to 5% of each fund's projected annual budget allocation. The proposal also adjusts the point at which the Legislature can begin tapping into these funding sources. Proponents believe that adding more funds to the mix lessens the strain on just a few areas, especially in a severely budget-deficient year. Also, lowering the threshold is more realistic. Opponents say the state's fiscal issues need to be addressed with budget reform, and feel this is simply a short-term fix for a long-term problem.