Know the amendments before you vote

By Tina Montgomery

On November 8, Louisiana voters will be asked to decide on 8 amendments to ratify the state Constitution.

Each proposed amendment had to receive a two-thirds favorable vote in the House and the Senate to be placed on the ballot. Now each of these amendments needs a majority vote at the polls to make the proposed changes to the Constitution. 

Six of the amendments on the ballot deal with changes for state and local financial issues. This article will examine each of the amendments with arguments for and against using the PAR (Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana) Guide to the 2022 constitutional amendments as well as commentary from our local legislators.

This is the first of a two part article covering amendments 1 through 4.

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?

What it does: Increases the cap for investing trust fund revenues to 65%.

District 10 State Representative Wayne McMahen explains, “Right now, only 35 percent of revenues in the state trust funds are present. The state treasurer can only invest up to that amount in stocks tied to CDs, bonds, and money markets. Risking more in returns would benefit the state in the long run. A change in the rules for how the treasurer can invest those funds creates more options [for investment], making more profit while keeping funds safe [in the market].”

A vote for would: Let the state increase to 65% the maximum amount of money in seven different trust funds that can be invested in equities on the stock market.

A vote against would: Keep tighter limits in place on the percentage of the trust funds’ money that can be invested in the stock market, with some unable to be invested in equities at all.

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?

What it does: Exempts veterans who are totally disabled because of their military service from local property taxes and provides new exemptions for other veterans based on the degree of their disability.

District 36 State Senator Robert Mills says, “This one is a real heart tugger. Your first instinct is to say yes, let’s help the veterans. But when you start thinking about it, you’re taking money away from someone and giving it to someone else. A service related disability does not necessarily prevent someone from working. A good example is the mayor of Shreveport. He’s medically disabled according to the military. This is not a slap to our veterans, it just may not be deserved or fair for everyone.”

A vote for would: Increase the property tax exemption available to veterans with service related disabilities and to their surviving spouses after the veteran’s death.

A vote against would: Maintain the current level of property tax exemption available to veterans with service related disabilities and to their surviving spouses.

Amendment 3: Do you support an amendment to allow classified civil service employees to support the election to public office of members of their own families?

What it does: Allows classified civil service employees at the state level, and in some municipalities, to support the campaign of “an immediate family member” in certain circumstances.

Both McMahen and Mills look at this amendment favorably. 

“Louisiana used to have a history of crooked politicians who would force people to campaign for them in elections,” Mills said. “This would allow family members to support someone for public office.” 

According to PAR, the definition of immediate family members is broad, covering a dozen categories of people. Employees of local registrars of voters and staff with the Secretary of State’s elections division would be excluded from the changes.

A vote for would: Allow most of Louisiana’s civil service employees to support certain campaign activities of a candidate for public office when that candidate is an immediate family member.

A vote against would: Continue the current prohibition on Louisiana’s civil service employees participating in campaign activities or supporting candidates for public office.

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?

What it does: Gives local governments that run water systems the flexibility to waive or reduce water charges that are the result of damage to the system that was not caused by the customer.

“This will allow them [local water districts] to reduce water bills in certain circumstances,” McMahen explained. “They cannot charge customers for extra usage because the water lines outside the customer’s property have been damaged. This mostly affects rural areas.”

A vote for would: Let local water districts, municipalities or other political subdivisions reduce customer bills for water use if the charges stem from water lost due to damage outside a customer’s control.

A vote against would: Keep local water districts, municipalities and other political subdivisions from lowering bills or waiving customer charges for water use in almost all circumstances.

Early voting is currently taking place at the Webster Parish Courthouse and the Springhill Civic Center.

Webster Parish Registrar of Voters Angela Hall said she saw a record number of early voters Tuesday.

“We had 280 early voters in Minden,” she said. “We’ve been really busy. Then we will also be in Springhill Thursday through Tuesday of next week.”