Amendments 5-8 receive attention

By Tina Montgomery

Louisiana voters have 8 Constitutional amendments to consider on November 8. The first 4 ran in the October 27 publication of The Webster Parish Journal. This article continues our examination of those amendments.  

Information about the amendments is sourced from the PAR Guide to the 2022 Constitutional Amendments and commentary from Representative Wayne McMahen and Senator Robert Mills.

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?

What it does: Allows a taxing authority more discretion to maintain millage rates for property taxes below their authorized maximum level.

The Louisiana Constitution requires that all property be reappraised at least every four years. Property taxes are collected in millages according to the assessed value of the property and capped at a maximum rate. When property values go up so does the revenue collected. Taxing authorities can adjust millages after the assessment so that tax collections stay the same as the previous year, despite any changes in property values or homestead exemptions. The result is many local governments reduce the tax rate when the property is reassessed to keep revenue at the same level, then raise it back up for a year to keep the maximum millage cap.

“This will give taxing authorities more flexibility to lower the cap,” McMahen said. “They can adjust millages as needed, as in the event of an emergency, but they can’t go above the rate.”

Mills said, “This will give them more time to decide whether to roll forward or roll back instead of having to adjust every four year period.”

Both legislators support this amendment.

A vote for would: Give local taxing bodies more time to decide if they want to “roll forward” millages that increase property taxes paid by businesses and homeowners.

A vote against would: Keep the rules governing millage “roll forwards” the same, giving local taxing bodies until the next property reappraisals to make the decision.

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?

What it does: Limits the increase in the assessed value of a residential property covered by the Homestead Exemption to no more than 10% per year in Orleans Parish.

 McMahen said, “Orleans Parish has seen soaring home values since Katrina and Covid. Homeowners [in Orleans Parish] have seen property taxes increase each 4 year assessment, over 50 percent for some. This limits assessments to 10 percent over the previous year [for property taxes]. It’s an issue related to inflation and prices going up.”

To sum this up, this will give homeowners some tax relief, especially for retired homeowners.  This amendment applies only to Orleans Parish but because property taxation for the New Orleans area is written into the state constitution it has to be approved by voters statewide as well as Orleans Parish.

A vote for would: Limit increases in the property tax liability of homes subject to homestead exemption in Orleans Parish, capping the reassessment increase to 10 percent of the residential property’s assessed value in the previous year.

A vote against would: Continue the current system, which requires a four-year phase-in of tax liability for homes subject to the homestead exemption when a reappraisal increases assessments by more than 50 percent.

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?

What it does: Eliminates an exception in the constitution that allows for involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime.

“The [state] constitution prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude,” Mills said. “This does not apply to having convicted persons from doing work like highway detail, road work.” 

McMahen said, “Involuntary servitude, slavery, is already covered in the Federal Constitution.” Both legislators commented that the language for this amendment needs to be rewritten. Technically, it can be read to permit both slavery and involuntary servitude in certain circumstances. Louisiana Constitution explicitly prohibits slavery.”

The author for this amendment, Representative Edmond Jordan, has stated to the media the amendment needs to be rewritten because his intent was to restrict the use of involuntary servitude, not broaden it.

A vote for would: Rework the state constitutional ban on slavery and involuntary servitude, allowing their use only for the “lawful administration of criminal justice.”

A vote against would: Keep the state’s current constitutional language banning slavery and involuntary servitude, but allowing involuntary servitude as a “punishment for crime.”

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?

What it does: Removes the current constitutional requirement that homeowners who are permanently totally disabled must re-certify their income each year to maintain the “special assessment” they have that freezes the assessed value of their property.

“This is another heart tugger,” Mills said. “We want to have sympathy for those who are disabled. It’s not difficult to re-certify each year with the technology we have.” 

McMahen agrees that technology makes it easier for a taxpayer to re-certify their income on a yearly basis.

“Paying taxes is part of Americ,” he said. “Giving people an opportunity to not pay taxes or freeze their rates is subject to abuse and it’s unfair treatment.”

Mills and McMahen both noted that disability does not necessarily correlate to household income. The amendment assumes that a disabled person can never work or earn good income. Likewise, it does not consider their spouse may be able to earn income. It should be noted that re-certifying income eligibility does not apply to homeowners 65 years of age or older.

A vote for would: Remove the requirement that certain property owners with disabilities annually certify their income to receive a property tax rate freeze.

A vote against would: Continue the annual income certification required for certain property owners with disabilities to receive a property tax rate freeze.

The Webster Parish Journal would like to remind voters to consider various sources of information to make their own decisions on the proposed amendments.