The Hayride’s Guide To The Eight Constitutional Amendments On The Ballot Tomorrow

It’s that time again, and as our readers know this usually irritates the hell out of us. We speak here of constitutional amendments, the bane of the Louisiana voter who is with disturbing regularity asked to do the job he or she already elected state legislators to do.

It’s no big deal when one or two of these amendments are on the ballot. When eight show up, not to mention four more coming in December when there would be runoff elections for this fall’s cycle, it’s obscene.

As such, our default position on these amendments is to vote “no,” even if the policy behind the amendment is more good than bad. Most of the items contained in these amendments are things which belong in state statute, as all legal minutiae should be.

But there are exceptions, and in some cases there is enough good public policy in a few of these to justify a “yes” vote.

So here’s your November 2022 guide to the constitutional amendments…

Amendment #1 

“Do you support an amendment to increase to 65% the cap on the amount of monies in certain state funds that may be invested in stocks?”

The increase would apply to the following funds:

  • Louisiana Education Quality Trust Fund
  • Artificial Reef Development Fund
  • Lifetime License Endowment Trust Fund
  • Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge Trust and Protection Fund
  • Russell Sage or Marsh Island Refuge Fund

Also the amendment would eliminate a provision in the constitution that limits the amount of money in the Millennium Trust that may be invested in stock and then allow the legislature to provide for investments by general law.

A yes vote means you support increasing the amount of specific state funds that can be invested in stocks from 35% to 65%.

A no vote means you support keeping the amount at 35%.

We’ll give a grudging yes to this one, although we’d like to see a much different stock market before the state plunges more of its cash into it. Frankly, we don’t understand why there would be a constitutional limit to how the state’s funds are invested – that’s something we elect people to steward.

Amendment #2

“Do you support an amendment to expand certain property tax exemptions for property on which the homestead exemption is claimed for certain veterans with disabilities?”

Currently, Louisiana properties are assessed at 10% of fair market value. $7,500 of assessed value is exempt from property taxes, but veterans that are 100% disabled have $15,000 exempt from their property taxes. This amendment would replace the current exemption for veterans with a 100% disability and expand those exemptions to other disabled veterans of a lesser disability rate.

A yes vote means you support changes to property tax exemptions for certain disabled veterans and their surviving spouse. This vote means you support one or more of the following:

  • Exempting $7,500 of homestead property tax AND exempting $2,500 for veterans with service-related disabilities that rate between 50% and 69%.
  • Exempting $7,500 of homestead property tax AND exempting $4,500 of assessed value from property taxes for veterans with service-related disabilities that rate between 70% and 99%.
  • Exempting the total assessed value from property taxes from veterans that are 100% disabled or 100% unemployable
  • Allowing the surviving spouse of the deceased disabled veteran to receive the exemption, even if the exemption was not claimed on the property before the veteran’s death

A no vote means you support keeping the property tax exemptions at $7,500 for a veteran with a 100% disability rating and their surviving spouse.

We have nothing against disabled veterans, obviously, but we’re a no on this one. Local governments have the ability to supply property tax exemptions, and they should take responsibility for items like this. And it definitely doesn’t belong in the state constitution, which is cluttered enough as is.

Amendment #3

On the ballot: “Do you support an amendment to allow classified civil service employees to support the election to public office of members of their own families?”

This amendment would allow Louisiana’s civil service employees to publicly support family members’ election campaigns when not currently on duty. This would allow off-duty civil service employees to appear in or at their family members’ political campaign commercials, photos, or events. The Louisiana Constitution currently prohibits this.

Civil service employees include, but are not limited to:

  • Elected officials and those appointed to fill vacant position in offices
  • City attorneys
  • City and state board members, authorities, and commissions
  • Military or naval forces members
  • Administrative officers of schools, colleges, universities of the state
  • Railroad employees with working conditions or retirement benefits are regulated by federal agencies

A yes vote means you support a classified service or civil service employees being allowed to publicly support election campaigns of their immediate family members when not working.

A no vote means you support a classified service or civil service employee to no be allowed to publicly support family members’ election campaigns.

We get why the application of current law might drive relatives of political candidates crazy if they’re in those civil service jobs, but the answer here is no. That prohibition was put in place for a reason – namely, that machine politics resulted in widespread nepotism in civil service jobs as a result of politicians’ sticking their grubby fingers in those pies. Everything in law is a trade-off, and this is on balance an anti-corruption policy that Louisiana’s politicians have yet to prove is obsolete. Vote no.

Amendment #4

“Do you support an amendment to allow local governments to waive water charges that are the result of damage to the water system not caused by the customer?”

The Louisiana Constitution currently prohibits local or state governments from “loaning, pledging, or donating its funds, credit, property, or things of value” to anyone. There are exceptions to this, but the amendment would add a new exception that would allow local governments to waive water charges under certain circumstances.

A yes vote means you support the local governments having the ability to waive water charges for customers who lost water because of infrastructure damages that were not caused by the customer.

A no vote means you support the local governments not having the ability to waive water charges.

Vote no. This is precisely the kind of item that doesn’t belong in the state constitution. And if local government-run water systems can’t get their bills right, waiving charges isn’t the answer, privatization is.

Amendment #5

“Do you support an amendment to allow the levying of a lower millage rate by a local taxing authority while maintaining the authority’s ability to adjust to the current authorized millage rate?”

Louisiana law says every four years, for at least one year, those taxing bodies have to collect the maximum millage rate or lose the power to ask voters to increase that maximum in the future.

The argument for this amendment – is that it will save taxpayers money – since tax-funded entities don’t have to hit the max if they don’t need it.

The argument against this amendment – is that it would open the door for those entities to ask voters for a higher millage rate in the future – even if they really didn’t need it.

A vote ‘yes’ on this amendment would give districts the flexibility to adjust property tax collections when the need arises… without having to hit the maximum millage amount.

A vote ‘no’ would mean taxing bodies have to hit the maximum millage rate at least once every four years.

This we can live with, because the “use it or lose it” rule on max millages was idiotic in the first place . We’ll make an exception to our default rule and go with a yes vote on this amendment.

Amendment #6

“Do you support an amendment to limit the amount of an increase in the assessed value of residential property subject to the homestead exemption in Orleans Parish following reappraisal at ten percent of the property’s assessed value in the previous year?”

The amendment would limit the increase in the assessed value of residential property in Orleans Parish to 10%, in which the owner of the property is receiving a homestead exemption.

A yes vote means you support limiting the increase the assessed value of residential property in Orleans Parish to 10% by 2024, based on 2023 numbers.

A no vote means you support keeping that assessed value at previous rates that align with previous property estimates from 2001.

The current cap on assessment increases is 25 percent. The rest of Louisiana shouldn’t be bothered to take care of the problems of Orleans Parish residents, especially not when the state is ultimately going to have to step in and provide law enforcement and other basic public goods as local government collapses there. And again, this is the kind of clutter that doesn’t belong in the state constitution. Vote no.

Amendment #7 

“Do you support an amendment to prohibit the use of involuntary servitude except as it applies to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice?”

The original sponsor of this was Rep. Edmund Jordan, a Democrat from Baton Rouge, who was virtue-signaling when he brought it. Jordan is now opposed to his own amendment.

A yes vote means you support removing language from the Louisiana Constitution that allow involuntary servitude as a punishment for crimes. A yes vote also means you support adding language to say that the section of the constitution that prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude “does not apply to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice.”

A no vote means you support keeping the language of these provisions within the state constitution.

Don’t vote for this. It’s garbage and crap. Nobody thinks convict labor is slavery in Louisiana and we already outlaw slavery. Nothing needs to change here.

Amendment #8

“Do you support an amendment to remove the requirement that homeowners who are permanently totally disabled must annually re-certify their income to keep their special assessment level on their residences for property tax purposes?”

This amendment would remove the annual income recertification requirement for permanently or 100% disabled homeowners and their surviving spouses that receive special property taxes assessment levels. The special assessment level is or property owners receiving a homestead exemption and are also:

  • 65+ years old
  • Veterans with a service-related disability rating of at least 50%
  • U.S. or Louisiana National Guard members who were killed, missing in action, or a prisoner of war for at least 90 days
  • Determined by a court or state or federal agency as being permanently or totally disabled

A yes vote means you support removing the requirement to recertify income for some disabled homeowners each year and allow that group to keep a special property tax level indefinitely.

A no vote means you supporting keeping this requirement for people with total or permanent disabilities to recertify their income each year in order to maintain their status.

Once again, this is the kind of thing which shouldn’t have been in the constitution to begin with, and our default position on all of this would be no. But in this case you’re actually removing constitutional provisions and therefore de-cluttering the document to an extent, so we could be persuaded otherwise.

In his treatment of the constitutional amendments Jeff Sadow said no to this one. We’re on the fence with it. Jeff thinks it’s not too much to ask that folks getting special tax treatment, who are filing tax returns anyway every year, recertify their income. He’s right, but we’re also for less red tape and paperwork required by government. So we’ll say this is worth a yes vote and disagree with Jeff’s recommendations.

So we’re going to be a “yes” on Amendments 1, 5 and 8. Vote no on the rest.

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