SADOW: Your Guide To This Year’s Constitutional Amendments

If you like dealing with constitutional amendments, then you’ll love the Nov. 4 ballot with 14 of them. As a public service for Louisianans faced with making rational decisions on this, here we go with whirlwind recommendations:

#1 – no. This not only would lock in nursing home Medicaid reimbursement rates and put pressure on cutting rates for home- and community-based care, but have them automatically increase – even as legally the state must move people out of institutional care. The lack of budget flexibility introduced almost assuredly would lead to higher taxes, legal difficulties, and reduced funding for the only other significant area that would not be protected, higher education (more information is here).

#2 – no. This allows hospitals to increase prices to sock away in a special protected fund. Similar to #1, it also reduces budgetary flexibility, encouraging tax increases in addition to the indirect “sick tax” and cuts elsewhere (more information is here).

#3 – yes. This allows local governments to contract out selling blighted property. It can deliver a better return on investment to citizens by hastening rehabilitation of these.

#4 – no. This actually sets up a mechanism to fund a state-run bank for local government transportation needs which doesn’t exist. Why vote on something nonexistent, and plenty of other financing means are available to states already.

#5 – no. This eliminates the requirement that judges cannot be elected after their 70th birthday. A number of states as does Louisiana wisely have age limits on judges because with advanced age judicial performance can decline and it also discourages treating these positions as lifetime jobs, which would only increase the already very high reelection rates for these, and introduces new blood (more information is here).

#6 – no. This allows New Orleans’ already highest-in-the-state property tax rates to go even higher, above constitutional limits, for police and fire protection. Do our neighbors a favor and force the city to make better spending choices without being able to tax more.

#7 – no. This allows some veterans not classified by the federal government as totally disabled to have their homestead exemptions doubled. But it privileges this class compared to the totally disabled for any reason and eats away at local government revenues.

#8 – no. This allows an extremely low-priority fund in state government, the Artificial Reef Development Fund, to be protected from funds sweeps that could go to pay for much more important needs. Rather than cordon off more of the roughly 300 such funds in state government, the state’s fiscal structure should be changed to introduce more flexibility (more information is here).

#9 – no. This eliminates the requirement that the totally disabled who must annually supply verification of their status and income to assessors to enjoy a freezing of the assessed value of their homesteads do this, instead creating a cutoff for income indexed by inflation and then voluntarily reporting if its exceeded. The change creates too much opportunity for failing to report and it is not too much to ask for annual verification.

#10 – yes. This halves to 18 months the time required until blighted property can have ownership changed after a tax sale. This would place no special burden on the previous owners and would expedite rehabilitation of these properties.

#11 – no. This creates an additional cabinet department intended for a Department of Elderly Affairs. Many states as Louisiana does presently do not give cabinet status to an agency with these functions and this merely shuffles around boxes on an organizational chart with no extra benefits. Instead, this only increases costs by increasing bureaucracy (more information is here).

#12 – no. This makes some of the state’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission members required to come from non-coastal Louisiana instead of leaving those positions at-large. Better would be to remove this from the Constitution and if the governor’s appointment discretion needs clipping, do it by statute.

#13 – no. This permits a New Orleans local government agency to sell flood-distressed property in the city’s Ninth Ward at below-market values. This makes no sense; something at market value by definition sells and the state’s prohibition on these “donations” should continue.

#14 – yes. This prohibits certain tax exceptions from being passed into law during general sessions of the Legislature. The constitutional parsing of “general” and “fiscal-only” sessions was to reduce competition for attention to fiscal matters that only can be attended to in fiscal sessions, so the change makes sense for consistency sake.

So unless it involves fair-market valued blighted properties or statewide tax exceptions, meaning voting for only #3, #10, and #14, voting against these is best for the state.

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