Think 504 Breakdown Of The Proposed State Constitutional Amendments
by Kenneth Cooper
On Tuesday the polls will re-open, and on the ballot, besides the presidency, judges, and congressional races there will be 7 state constitutional amendments and a proposition to consider. Here’s a breakdown.
Do you support an amendment declaring that, to protect human life, a right to abortion and the funding of abortion shall not be found in the Louisiana Constitution?
- What the amendment would do! It prevents the state constitution from being cited as a legal justification for abortion. Especially if any of the present restrictions are challenged. Or if Roe v Wade is overturned (Roe v Wade being overturned would trigger a state-wide ban on abortion).
- Pros – The state constitution doesn’t provide any specific right to an abortion. So the amendment will prevent any judge from interpreting it as if it did so.
- Cons – Much of the state constitution is and has been up for interpretation in court. And the amendment itself is based on an interpretation, mainly that the right to privacy doesn’t extend to abortion. Also, the constitution covers the rights of people, not life. Personhood is a major factor in the abortion debate. So the amendment’s blanket ban begs the question on when the pregnancy actually produces a person with rights.
Do you support an amendment to permit the presence of production of oil and gas to be included in the methodology used to determine the fair market value of an oil and gas well for the purpose of property assessment?
- What the amendment will do!- Allow the amount of oil and gas a well produces to be factored into the property tax for that well.
- Pros – Including the production of the well will allow a more accurate assessment of what the well is actually worth.
- Cons – Parishes dependent on the present property taxes from what would be deemed less producing wells could see less in taxes under the new system.
Do you support an amendment to allow for the use of the Budget Stabilization Fund, also known and the Rainy Day Fund, for state costs associated with a disaster declared by the federal government?
- What the amendment will do!– During federally declared disasters and after a 2/3 approval of the legislature, the Rainy Day Fund can be tapped.
- Pros – Instead of waiting on the federal government to allocate funds, the state could tap into its own reserves. Then the state could respond more quickly to those in need.
- Cons – The state has a poor record of replenishing the Rainy Day Fund. And the amendment doesn’t include a mandate for the state to do so. There’s an accompanying statute that requires it. But the statute could be overridden during a legislative session. That could possibly leave the fund too depleted to be tapped for its intended purpose — budget shortfalls.
Do you support an amendment to limit the growth of the expenditure limit for the state general fund and dedicated funds and to remove the calculation of its growth factor from the Constitution?
- What the amendment will do! – It would not allow the state general fund to grow by more than 5% each year. And it requires a 2/3 vote of the legislature to change the factors used to determine how much the fund grows or decreases by.
- Pros – Further limiting the amount the general fund can grow by will force the state to be more conscientious about how it allocates money during the budget process.
- Cons – The cost of running a government tends to go up, not down. Subjecting the state to a strict 5% limit could cause budget shortfalls. And that could result in the same cuts to hospitals and higher education it had to resort to during the recession.
Do you support an amendment to authorize local governments to enter into cooperative endeavor ad valorem tax exemption agreements with new or expanding manufacturing establishments for payments in lieu of taxes?
- What the amendment will do! – It would allow local governments to sidestep the State Board of Commerce and Industry and negotiate deferred property tax agreements with certain businesses directly.
- Pros – Local governments could become more competitive for business via creative tax packages.
- Cons – It is ripe for kickbacks and under-the-table-deals where bribes are doled out for more friendly tax packages.
Do you support an amendment to increase the maximum amount of income a person may receive and still qualify for the special assessment level for residential property receiving the homestead exemption?
- What the amendment will do – Expand the income level for those qualifying for a special property tax break (people 65 and older, the disabled, and widowed military spouses) from $77,000 to $100,000.
- Pros – It would further honor the spouses of dead military veterans, and provide some financial relief to those seniors and the disabled who may be paying more in medical bills.
- Cons – Local budgets have less money from property taxes.
Do you support an amendment to create the Louisiana Unclaimed Property Permanent Trust Fund to preserve the money that remains unclaimed by its owner or owners?
- What the amendment will do – It would place most of the unclaimed money owed to citizens in a dedicated trust fund instead of the general fund.
- Pros – The internet makes it easier for citizens to track down unclaimed property. So the state would be in a better position to repay that money if it were separated from the budget.
- Cons – The state budget is partially dependent on people not claiming their money. Stopping that money from being used in the general fund could result in budget cuts.
Shall sports wagering activities and operations be permitted in the parish of ____?
- What the Proposition would do – It would allow sports betting to become legal in the parishes that approve.
- Pros – Via taxes on sports betting, local governments can bring in more revenue and recoup some of the taxes they may lose due to some of the proposed amendments.
- Cons – It could increase gambling addictions.
The amendments always cover a wide range of areas, and this year is no different. These choices are just as important as the president, U.S. Congressman, or the choice of judge, or state rep and senator. Hopefully, this Think 504 breakdown has made the amendments much easier to consider.