There are 7 constitutional amendments on the ballot this fall as well as a gambling referendum for voters to approve or reject.
Amendment 1: Would establish that abortion is not a protected right in the state constitution.
The constitution already does not protect abortion and Louisiana already has a law on the books that would ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.
The constitutional amendment would have no immediate impact. It was proposed in order to ensure that the state’s constitution protected the rights of women, including due process and privacy, were never interpreted in a way that would protect abortion rights if Roe v. Wade is struck down. It includes no exceptions for rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother.
Amendment 2: Would change how property taxes on oil wells are assessed.
The oil and gas industry and the state’s assessors, two groups often opposed to each other, both supported the legislation that led to this amendment. It passed the state House and Senate unanimously. It would allow the well’s production to be included in determining its property tax rate, a factor that isn’t currently included.
While low-producing wells may be taxed less, more productive wells could be taxed more. Supporters argue, overall, taxes on wells won’t go up or down, although the local impact may vary depending on the parish.
“This income approach is the same method used when wells are valued for sale on the open market,” Daron Fredrickson, who chairs the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association’s tax committee, said. “It’s common sense that this valuation method should be available for property assessment purposes as well.”
Amendment 3: Would allow the Budget Stabilization Fund to be used to pay for state costs incurred during a federally declared disaster.
Otherwise known as the “rainy day fund,” lawmakers use it to help pay for state services when there’s a revenue shortfall. At least two-thirds of both the House and Senate would have to approve taking money out of the fund, and no more than one-third of the money could be spent at a time.
By tapping into reserves, lawmakers could avoid cash flow problems while waiting for federal reimbursement for disaster expenses.
Amendment 4: Would change how the state’s expenditure limit is calculated.
Louisiana currently has an expenditure limit that is recalculated each year based on the old limit multiplied by the average personal income growth over the past three years. The amendment would add new factors into the calculation and use the previous year’s spending, not the previous year’s limit, as the baseline. Lawmakers would be able to lift the cap with a two-thirds vote in both chambers.
Supporters argue that a more restrictive limit would lessen the ups and downs of state spending and restrain the growth of government.
Critics argue that tightening the spending limits would hinder a state’s recovery from a recession by forcing cuts to services. Requiring a two-thirds vote to lift the cap effectively could give a minority of legislators veto power over the state budget, further politicizing the process. Lawmakers, already constrained by various legal and constitutional mandates, would have even less budgeting flexibility if the amendment were passed, they argue.
Amendment 5: Would create a new system whereby local taxing authorities could negotiate payments in lieu of property taxes.
Analysts note that this perhaps the most controversial amendment on the ballot.
Payments in lieu of taxes (or PILOTs) are already available in Louisiana. Under this system, businesses agree to make payments to local governments instead of paying property taxes. When used as an economic development incentive, the amount the business pays through the PILOT is less than they would otherwise owe.
Under current law, the government entity takes legal title to the project and leases it back to the developer; as a publicly owned project, it becomes exempt from property taxes. Amendment 5 would allow the project developer to retain ownership, the Center Square reports.
Manufacturers that are eligible for the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program can also avoid paying 100 percent of their assessed property taxes for up to 10 years, through this amendment. Although after recent rule changes, the maximum benefit would be an 80 percent exemption for eight years.
“Under the new proposal, a company eligible for an ITEP and a local taxing entity could strike a deal in which the company makes up-front payments in exchange for lower property payments for up to 25 years, well after an ITEP runs out,” the Center Square reports. “Local governments could use the money for infrastructure or other immediate needs.”
“It’s a tool in the toolbox for local governments,” Sen. Mark Abraham, who sponsored the legislation, said.
Critics see it as yet another example of corporate welfare that shifts the local tax burden onto taxpayers, and lead to corruption and misuse of funds.
Amendment 6: Raises the income threshold to qualify for a property tax assessment freeze.
Currently, property tax assessments are frozen for residents aged 65 or older, the disabled, and surviving spouses of military members killed in action, though they must have $77,030 or less in annual income to be eligible. Amendment 6 would raise the income limitation to $100,000, adjusted for inflation, beginning in 2026.
Amendment 7: Creates a dedicated trust fund for unclaimed property.
Louisiana’s unclaimed property fund consists of abandoned financial assets such as old checking and savings accounts, unpaid wages, securities, life insurance payouts, uncashed checks, and the proceeds of safe deposit boxes. Historically, lawmakers have spent money left in the fund at the end of the fiscal year.
Amendment 7 calls for the money to be put into an interest-earning fund from which lawmakers could spend the interest but not the principal.
Parish referendum: Legalizes sports betting in certain parishes.
The referendum allows voters to permit legal sports betting in their parish. It does not stipulate who would be allowed to bet on sports, where bets would be taken, or what taxes or fees would be levied. The details would be determined next year if voters approved the referendum.
The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana’s annual guide to proposed constitutional amendments was a source for some of the information in this article along with The Center Square’s original reporting. The PAR published a voter guide free online for voters to use to learn about each item on the ballot.