Are You Ready for the Constitutional Amendments?

This year there are six amendments to the state constitution on the November 8 ballot. Four of them – amendments 2, 3, 5 and 6 – can clearly be viewed as substantive and we hope voters will take a few minutes to review those closely. We support three of those amendments. Two other amendments are less far reaching, but they are also worthy of consideration by voters and we recommend support of one of them.

A brief description of the amendments and CABL’s recommendations are included below. A more detailed review of each amendment can be found on our website .

CABL Recommendations on Constitutional Amendments

Amendment # 1  Create Hiring Qualifications for Registrars of Voters :This amendment would allow the Legislature to establish qualifications for new registrars of voters, as well as give lawmakers more influence over how they are appointed. The Legislature already has some authority with regard to registrars, but not in these two areas. This authority is appropriate and we support this amendment. SUPPORT

Amendment #2  Tuition Authority for Higher Education : Louisiana is one of only two states where the Legislature must approve any increases in tuition and fees and the only state that does so by a two-thirds vote. If this amendment passes, the authority to establish tuition rates would be transferred to the four university management boards creating a situation more like what you see in almost every other state where colleges are better able to manage their own resources. SUPPORT

Amendment #3  Changes in Corporate Income Tax : The direct effect of passage of this amendment would be to eliminate the ability of corporations to deduct their federal taxes paid from their state tax liability, but it would also trigger a change that would implement a 6.5% flat income tax rate for corporations. This amounts to a tax policy reform that should make the state’s tax structure more competitive and put Louisiana more in line with our neighboring states. SUPPORT

Amendment #4  Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouses of Military and Public Safety Personnel : In addition to the $75,000 Homestead Exemption that the constitution allows for all homeowners, there are also some other exemptions for people in certain situations. This amendment would give the surviving spouse of someone in the military, law enforcement or fire protection who dies in the line of duty a complete exemption from property taxes on their home. Though this is clearly a well-intended amendment, we do have some concerns about continuing to expand tax exemptions that have the effect of lowering taxes for some while raising them for others.  NO POSITION

Amendment # 5  Create the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund : This amendment would create the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund and it has two overarching goals: 1) to establish a new trust fund that would, in essence, act as a savings account for large windfalls in revenue from mineral or corporate taxes, and 2) provide a safeguard so that when state revenues temporarily spike because of high oil prices and corporate tax collections we would be able to avoid large deficits in the budget when those prices inevitably fall. This represents a significant reform of state spending practices that could protect the state from some of the negative consequences of volatile swings in mineral and corporate tax revenue. SUPPORT

Amendment # 6  Allow Limited Access to Constitutionally Dedicated Funds : This amendment is an effort to give lawmakers more flexibility in difficult budget situations to cut into constitutionally dedicated funds. They already have the ability to do that in certain instances, but this amendment would expand that authority in at least two significant ways. While we believe this amendment is a well-intended effort to address a major budget issue, our preference would be to see a more comprehensive approach. NO POSITION

Again, the briefing on our website takes a look at each of these amendments in a little added detail. If you want to dig a bit deeper the PAR Guide to the 2016 Constitutional Amendments is a great resource.

Constitutional amendments may seem mundane compared to some of the other things on the ballot this year, but they are hugely important. Ultimately, only voters can decide the laws that make up the Louisiana constitution and it is the responsibility of all of us to perform the due diligence to ensure that the decisions we make are both informed and thoughtful.

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