Should members of the LSU Board of Supervisors disclose who receives their scholarships?|
|Recommendations on amendments|
Early voting for the Nov. 6 election begins Tuesday, Oct. 23. It concludes Tuesday, Oct. 30.
Besides casting ballots in the presidential race and congressional elections, Louisiana voters will decide the fate of nine proposed changes to the state Constitution, as well as one local option measure. The Legislature approved the measures for voters to consider earlier this year during the regular legislative session.
Here is a brief explanation about each proposed constitutional amendment. Also, we are offering our recommendation on how the electorate should vote on each amendment, as well as on the local option concern.
Amendment 1 would add the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly to the list of funds protected in the Constitution from being "swept" of its cash balance when the Legislature and/or the governor look for additional money to balance the state budget.
Vote NO on Amendment 1 because roughly two-thirds of the budget already is off limits to the Legislature and the governor thanks to constitutional and statutory protections. In other words, when money is tight the budget-cutting ax primarily falls on outlays that are not protected by statute or the Constitution. And the last thing the state should do is ostracize another pool of money, handing the Legislature a reason to declare that taxes should be raised because there is not enough money on hand to balance the budget.
Amendment 2 would add language to the Constitution that says the right to possess a weapon is a fundamental right in Louisiana and any restriction must pass a "strict scrutiny" judicial review. The amendment also would remove language from the Constitution that gives the Legislature the authority to pass laws restricting the right to carry a concealed weapon.
Vote YES on Amendment 2 though let us make it very clear that a state judge should never declare constitutional any law that remotely infringes upon one's constitutional right to bear arms. Furthermore, no legislative body in any state, including Louisiana, should entertain legislation that infringes upon one's right to possess a weapon, concealed or not.
Amendment 3 would establish separate prefiling and public notice requirements for any proposal to change the state's retirement systems. Retirement bills or constitutional amendments would have to be prefiled no later than 45 calendar days before the first day of the legislative session. Also, notices of intention to introduce a bill affecting the state's public retirement systems would have to be published in the state's Official Journal on two separate days. The second notice would have to be published no later than 60 days before the bill is introduced.
Vote NO on Amendment 3. The public currently has ample time to review any proposal that would affect the state's retirement systems.
Amendment 4 slightly alters the language of a constitutional amendment that voters statewide approved in 2010. The 2010 amendment gave local parish governing bodies the authority to ask voters to double the Homestead Exemption in their parishes for disabled veterans with a 100 percent service-connected disability rating. The 2010 amendment also allowed the spouses of these veterans to continue claiming the higher Homestead Exemption if it was in effect at the time the veteran died. The amendment voters are being asked to approve in the Nov. 6 election says that if the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran occupies and remains the owner of the couple's home, he or she can claim the higher Homestead Exemption whether the exemption was in effect at the time the veteran died.
Vote YES on Amendment 4.
Amendment 5 would allow state courts to order any public servant convicted of a felony associated with his or her office to forfeit some or all of his public retirement benefits. Only the publicly funded portion of a public servant's retirement benefits would be affected. This provision would apply only to public servants hired, rehired or elected on or after Jan. 1, 2013. Public employees hired before Jan. 1, 2013, would be exempt from the provisions. Any elected officials currently holding office who are eligible for public retirement benefits would come under the provisions of the law if he or she were re-elected after Jan. 1, 2013.
Vote NO on Amendment 5. The proposed amendment does not go far enough in punishing public servants who are convicted of violating the public's trust. The Legislature should revisit the matter. Any proposed change to the Constitution that allows a state judge to order a public servant to forfeit retirement benefits should include all state retirement benefits, and the proposed change should be retroactive to include all current public servants. In other words, the Legislature should give the amendment some bite.
Amendment 6 would allow the city of New Iberia to offer ad valorem tax abatement contracts to property owners who agree to be annexed into the city. The contracts could be up to five years and would require a two-thirds approval of the city council in New Iberia. The contracts could be extended for an additional period of up to five years provided the extension was approved by two-thirds of the city council.
Vote YES on Amendment 6. This is an amendment that strictly concerns the city of New Iberia. City officials in New Iberia advocated for its inclusion on the statewide ballot because it was determined the Constitution must be amended to allow the city to engage abatement contracts.
Amendment 7 would reconfigure how the members of six constitutionally created boards and commissions are selected to align with the reduced number of congressional districts and to ensure that each congressional district is represented equally. The six boards and commissions are the Board of Regents, the boards of supervisors for the University of Louisiana System, the LSU System and the Southern University System, as well as the state Civil Service Commission and the State Police Commission.
Vote YES for Amendment 7. This is purely a housekeeping amendment to cope with the loss of a congressional district following the 2010 Census.
Amendment 8 would create a limited exemption from local property taxes for certain non-manufacturing businesses in parish and towns that take part in the program. The first $10 million of assessed value or 10 percent of the fair market value (whichever is greater) would be taxed. Any value above that would be exempt. At least 50 percent of the business's sales must be to out-of-state customers or to in-state customers who resell the product out of state, or to the federal government, or some combination thereof.
Vote YES for Amendment 8.
Amendment 9 would increase the number of times that bills to create crime prevention and security districts must be advertised and require that the notices of intent state whether a parcel fee would be imposed and collected, whether the fee could be imposed or increased without an election and what the maximum amount of the fee would be.
Vote YES on Amendment 9.
The local option measure concerns term limits for members of school boards.
Vote NO on the local option measure. A law is not needed to limit the terms any elected official shall serve. The voters already have the option to limit an elected official's term in office. It's called an election.