(The Center Square) — Louisiana voters will decide on a series of constitutional amendments on Nov. 14 dealing with vetoed bills, inactive special funds, taxes and the state’s Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund.
The ballot questions stem from bills passed by two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers of the state Legislature as part of the process to amend the state constitution. Each proposed amendment must gain a majority vote in the Nov. 18 general election to become a reality.
Amendment 1 would allow lawmakers to attempt to override gubernatorial vetoes of legislation during the regular session rather than calling a special session as is currently required. The amendment would clarify the governor’s deadlines for deciding on bills, as well.
Under the proposed change the governor would have 10 days to sign or veto a bill once received from the Legislature if lawmakers are still in session. If not, the governor would have 20 days. If the governor does not take action by the deadlines, legislation would become law without the governor’s signature.
If lawmakers are still in session, the change would allow them to hold veto override votes without calling a special veto session. If they’re not, they would use the process in place now.
While proponents contend the change would clarify rules for overriding vetoes during a regular session, opponents believe the constitution is clear and the changes would only create confusion.
Amendment 2 aims to remove six inactive funds from the Louisiana Constitution that are no longer being used for their intended purpose.
The Agricultural and Seafood Products Support Fund, Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund, First Use Tax Trust Fund, Higher Education Louisiana Partnership Fund, and the Millennium Leverage Fund contain no money. At the same time, the Louisiana Investment Fund for Enhancement has a balance of $604 and hasn’t received a deposit since 2002.
Proponents want to remove the funds and unnecessary language from a cluttered constitution. At the same time, opponents suggest the funds may be useful in the future and should be reviewed rather than eliminated.
Amendment 3 would allow parishes to offer property tax exemptions to police, firefighters and first responders who own homes and live within the jurisdictions.
The constitution currently allows for an exemption from most parish property taxes up to $75,000, while the state provides tax breaks for specific residents, including the elderly, military veterans, and those with disabilities. The change would allow parishes to increase property tax exemptions for qualified first responders by $25,000. It would apply to sheriffs, police, peace officers, firefighters, emergency operators, dispatchers and others.
Those in favor contend the additional tax break could help to recruit police and other first responders amid shortages in many communities, helping to improve public safety. Proponents also highlight that local parish officials would decide.
Those against Amendment 3 suggest the tax breaks will erode revenues for parishes and shift the tax burden to other taxpayers while also cutting tax revenue for school systems that will not have a hand in the decision.
Amendment 4 would change how the state spends money from its Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund, a savings account with about $2.2 billion from corporate income and franchise taxes, and dollars from oil and gas exploration.
It currently takes a two-thirds vote from lawmakers in both chambers to access the funds, and Amendment 4 would require them to first use money from the state’s rainy day fund, which also requires a two-thirds vote by both chambers.
The change would protect against lawmakers depleting the entire fund in situations they deem an emergency, proponents argue. Those against contending constitutionally protected accounts hamstring lawmakers from addressing emerging needs, and making the process harder would only worsen the issue.