SADOW: Five Thumbs Down, Four Thumbs Up On State Constitutional Amendments

This space already has delved into why the voting public should reject on the Nov. 6 ballot Amendment 1. Eight other changes to the Louisiana Constitution also need vetting.

Amendment 2 has received by far the most publicity, which would introduce the “strict scrutiny” standard to any state government attempts to restrict firearm usage. Some opponents argue that it could make it more difficult for legal authorities to prosecute criminals regarding gun possession, but any reasonable understanding of the doctrine would not support that contention. Given the continuing demonstration of the salutary impact that increased gun ownership has on the quality of life, this deserves passage.

Amendment 3 tackles the complex subject of retirement legislation by trying to give more time to understand it by filing these kinds of bills earlier in a legislative session. But it creates practical problems, such as when a new Legislature is sworn in new members would have almost no time to even introduce such bills. Further, it creates asymmetry in power relations against those who would want to change things, as a sooner filing would allow for more time to have specific vested interests create defensive strategies. And, the bills can change substantially anyway throughout the process, negating earlier revelation if that even is necessary to understand them. The Constitution, and House and Senate rules, already give retirement as a subject special treatment meaning they must be filed earlier than other bills, which thus needs not be expanded upon nor be allowed to become that much more difficult to change by cluttering the Constitution further with this requirement, so this needs to be rejected.

Amendment 4 would compound a mistake previously made by voters two years ago that doubled the homestead exemption for veterans with a service-connected disability rating of one hundred percent, by referendums in each parish, by adding spouses of those deceased individuals also in qualification. As explained then, it’s incomplete in that it does not include all totally disabled individuals and may reduce the chances for them to get a similar deal in the future, much less the spouses of those dead. Those so completely disabled rarely asked for it, so why single out a special category and now include the non-disabled? While this is feel-good, it’s better to come back with an amendment including all for consistency sake and then debate the merits, so passing this one might close the debate prematurely; that this amendment was proposed and not a more complete one validates that argument and thus should not be passed.

Amendment 5 would allow courts to use as a penalty forfeiture of state retirement benefits. A companion law waits in the wings that would define how this would work, which visits the very isolated fashion the punishment on the miscreant, not his family, affecting only state contributions, and for state job-related acts. That law can be changed; the amendment only gives the right to legislate in this area. The deterrent value of this might have prevented pensioners like this guy and that guy from committing meaningful crimes in office, much less unelected bureaucrats, and every little bit helps in this state, so this one needs passage.

Amendment 6 would let New Iberia grant city property tax exemptions for annexations into the city, because that activity is discouraged because of previous decisions about whether the city or parish should perform certain public services. A good rule of thumb is never to clutter the Constitution when other solutions exist. Besides the fact this would allow New Iberia to play political favorites in deciding whom to grant these to, it either could undo the previous arrangement or by ordinance offer a tax rebate to those annexed. Vote no to this unnecessary addition.

Amendment 7 is like taking bad medicine. It would alter the compositions of several high-profile boards, whose compositions are set in the Constitution, based upon six rather than seven Congressional districts, as one was lost in the recent decennial reapportionment. Better to do this constitutionally than not and invite trouble down the road when trying to justify an unconstitutional action by state government, so voter should hold their noses and swallow an affirmative vote here.

Amendment 8 also has received a small amount of attention, which would allow local governments by unanimity in an area to dole out tax exemptions to certain employers, as defined by a companion law administered by the state’s Board of Commerce and Industry. This opens the door to more erosion of local tax revenues and crony capitalism, potentially magnified considerably by changes that could come to the implementing legislation. Therefore, a negative vote should come to this.

Amendment 9 would address the burgeoning concept of crime prevention districts over the past 15 years by requiring more reporting requirements before they appear on a ballot for passage that if successful would lead to higher taxes – in these districts, because local public safety forces aren’t doing their jobs well enough, those living in these areas are forced to pay more. As the confiscation of property is the most serious action a government can take, voters need maximal awareness of this situation, which may defeat or discourage these attempts. Liberty must be protected to the greatest extent possible, and a vote for this would do that.

For these eight, half should earn passage. So now readers may look forward to act accordingly by mail or in person.

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