SADOW: Most Of The Constitutional Amendments On The Nov. 8 Ballot Stink

Louisianans face a mixed bag of constitutional amendments coming up on Nov. 8 that mostly deserve rejection.

Amendment #1 – would allow an increase to 65 percent from 35 percent in most cases the proportion of money in equities that seven trust funds worth $3.4 billion at present may invest. The state historically has engaged sober-minded firms to advise here, so this change should increase the overall levels of these over time without undue risk. YES.

Amendment #2 – would expand the property tax exemption for totally disabled veterans and to those partially disabled and surviving spouses. Disabled veterans already enjoy the most generous exemption in a system riddled with all kinds whose exceptions erode more and more local government tax bases. This is an issue that local voters should decide and not have imposed on a statewide basis. NO.

Amendment #3 – would let broadly-defined “immediate family members” part of the classified state or (where they exist independently) local civil services, excluding election-related employees, campaign for but not to donate to their relatives running for office. Government employment in jobs with vested rights is a privilege cordoned off from politics as much as possible to prevent discriminatory treatment of citizens, and even this small expansion presents too much risk in this regard. NO.

Amendment #4 – would permit local governments running water and sewerage systems to waive charges that resulted from imperfections in the system, such as a leak leading to a higher bill. Unfortunately, this would reduce incentives for citizens-owners of these systems to practice vigilance and proactive behavior to reduce the incidence of problems, by instead socializing costs, while other less-drastic alternatives exist to ameliorate higher charges. NO.

Amendment #5 – would allow a taxing authority more discretion to maintain millage rates for property taxes below their authorized maximum level. This fixes a constitutional quirk that forces well-intended local governments that have let non-debt taxes roll back because of property value increases to roll these forward at some point to the maximum, even as they reverse that a year later, every four years in order to allow them to have access to that maximum in the future. YES.

Amendment #6 – would cap assessment increases, translating to the same for property taxes, in Orleans Parish to no more than 10 percent increases. The state already has a cap of 25 percent in place and if higher assessments are being driven by short-term rental and other policy sources, then local government policy changes (or changes in elected officials making this policy by voters) is a more appropriate response, and it doesn’t apply to rental properties that would encourage turning more homesteads into rentals to pass on to renters, whether short term. The current cap is adequate and something lower might hamstring future responsible governing elites. NO.

Amendment #7 – would eliminate an exception in the Constitution that allows for involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime, meant to apply to prisoners. The current constitutional wording “Slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited, except in the latter case as punishment for a crime” isn’t broken; nobody seriously equates convict labor as slavery. NO.

Amendment #8 – would remove the necessity of permanently totally disabled homestead owners to certify (using income tax returns) that they fall under the (generous) income ceiling on an annual basis that freezes their assessment. This isn’t too much to ask for this benefit and fortunes can change on a dime, such as fossil fuel lease bonus and royalty payments. And once homesteaders turn 65, the certification requirement lapses anyway. NO.

Summary: YES on #1 and #5; to the ash heap with the rest.

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