LUNSFORD: What To Do About The November Constitutional Amendments

Short version:

  1. Yes
  2. Yes
  3. No
  4. Leaning No

Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 1: Deadline to Veto Bills and Rules for Veto Sessions

Do you believe the legislature should be able to address vetoes during an active legislative session instead of having to wait for a special veto-override session?

Do you support an amendment to clarify that the timing of gubernatorial action on a bill and his return of a vetoed bill to the legislature is based upon the legislative session in which the bill passed and to authorize the legislature, if it is in session, to reconsider vetoed bills without convening a separate veto session? (Effective January 8, 2024) (Amends Article III, Section 18)

The proposal on the ballot originates from House Bill 166 introduced by Representative Greg Miller (R 4/10) during the 2022 Regular Session. At present the timeline for the Governor to veto bill depends on the status of the legislature. If the legislature is in session the Governor has 10 days in which to veto it. If the legislature is not in session, he has 20 days in which to veto it. The Constitution requires that a veto session be held starting on the 40th day following the end of the legislative session. That’s when they’re supposed to consider any bills vetoed by the Governor.

A vote in favor of the amendment would allow members of the legislature to override the Governor’s veto without having a separate veto session provided they are already in a legislative session.

A vote against would not result in any changes and the legislature would still be required under the Constitution to hold a separate veto session for the purpose of overriding bills the Governor vetoes regardless of whether or not they are in session.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 2: Repeal of Inactive Special Funds in the Constitution

Do you support removing various empty (or nearly empty) constitutionally protected special funds?

Do you support an amendment to remove provisions of the Constitution of Louisiana which created the following inactive special funds within the state treasury: Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund, Higher Education Louisiana Partnership Fund, Millennium Leverage Fund, Agricultural and Seafood Products Support Fund, First Use Tax Trust Fund, Louisiana Investment Fund for Enhancement and to provide for the transfer of any remaining monies in such funds to the state general fund? (Repeals Article VII, Sections 4(D)(4)(b)10.410.10, and 10.12(B) and (C) and Article IX, Sections 9 and 10)

This proposal originates from House Bill 254 introduced by Representative Polly Thomas (R 7/10) during the 2023 Regular Session. In 1974 when the Constitution was adopted there were only two special funds referenced in the document. Since that time lawmakers have added dozens of additional special funds. The purpose of the bill is remove the following funds:

  • Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund
  • the Higher Education Louisiana Partnership (HELP) Fund
  • the Millennium Leverage Fund
  • the Agricultural and Seafood Products Support Fund
  • the First Use Tax Trust Fund
  • the Louisiana Investment Fund for Enhancement (LIFE)

Proponents of the bill aim to eliminate these special funds from the Constitution. Five of the six funds presently don’t contain any money. The sixth fund, not having collected any money in several decades, has a nominal balance ($604). Many who support the measure also argue that there is no need to have these items in the Constitution. Rather special funds could simply be enshrined in state law where it would be easier for law makers to address their use and adjust to changing financial situations.

Opponents of the bills argue that there is no harm in leaving the funds in the Constitution. They were created for a specific purpose and should remain in the Constitution for potential future use.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 3: Property Tax Exemptions for First Responders

Do you support the creation of yet another [fill in the blank] special class that doesn’t have to pay as much in taxes as everyone else?

Do you support an amendment to authorize the local governing authority of a parish to provide an ad valorem tax exemption for qualified first responders? (Adds Article VII, Section 21(O))

Senator Royce Duplessis (D 1/10) brought Senate Bill 127 during the 2023 Regular Session. Homestead exemption from most parish property taxes up to $75,000 of the value of the home. That already exists in our constitution. It applies to EVERYONE. However, throughout the years there have been exemptions implemented and others attempted to provide special tax benefits for some, while saddling others with the tax burden. Homeowners with disabilities, elderly homeowners with low income and military veterans are just a few special carveouts we have allowed.

Ever increasing tax exemptions for “special classes”?

Just last year there was a ballot proposal which stemmed from House Bill 599 introduced by Representative Beau Beaullieu (R 5/10) and co-sponsored by several other representatives during the 2022 Regular Session which sought re-write that portion of the Constitution which codifies the special exemption previously carved out for veterans and their surviving spouses. Additionally, House Bill 395 introduced by Representative Matthew Willard (D 1/10) during the 2022 Regular Session provided another exception. Willard sought to remove the provision of the law which requires that totally disabled persons recertify their income annually because is overly burdensome. At that time, we warned that special privileges wouldn’t be contained to just Veterans.

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A vote for would allow parish governing authorities to extend to these sorts of tax breaks to first responders. But who will be next… Healthcare workers? Teachers? Or maybe just all government officials? After all, the definition includes all “full-time public employee(s) whose duties include responding rapidly to an emergency” and “other person(s) deputized by proper authority to serve as a peace officer.” That just sounds like a few tweaks to some governmental job description and/or a commission from the Sheriff in order to get into the “Tax Break Club.”

A vote against would stop another special tax privilege from being added to the Constitution. Some will play with your heart strings and say you don’t support law enforcement, fireman, etc. unless you vote yes. But there is a practical consequence to all these tax breaks. When the government losses revenue through these breaks do you think they will make cutbacks? Not likely. They will just raise taxes on those that aren’t exempted for various reasons or raise taxes on the same first responders by other means.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 4: Rule Changes for the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund

Do you support making it more difficult for the legislature to empty the budget stabilization fund during an emergency?

Do you support an amendment authorizing the legislature, after securing a two-thirds vote of each house, to use up to two hundred fifty million dollars from the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund to alleviate a budget deficit subject to conditions set forth by law and allowing the legislature to modify such conditions for accessing the monies in the fund, subject to two-thirds vote? (Amends Article VII, Section 10.15(E)(1) and (F); Adds Article VII, Section 10.15(G))

Back to special funds… Louisiana has a Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund created in 2016. That is where certain funds collect from oil and gas exploration revenues and business tax collections over a certain threshold go. At present, the Constitution allows lawmakers with a two-thirds vote of the House and the Senate, to change the thresholds for accessing the funds as well as allowing for any amount to be used in an “emergency.” This bill, House Bill 244, was authored by outgoing state representative Stuart Bishop (R 5/10) during the 2023 Regular Session.

A vote in favor of the amendment would remove the language which allows lawmakers to access the funds during an emergency up to the full balance of the fund and make it more difficult for lawmakers to raid the fund.

Opponents of the bill argue that Louisiana locks up too much money in Constitutionally protected accounts severely limiting lawmakers from being able to respond to the changing circumstances facing the state.

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