The Independent Weekly has parsed the language in the proposed amendments, and our recommendations follow. For more info, we also urge voters to visit the Web sites of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (www.la-par.org) and Council for a Better Louisiana (www.cabl.org) and read both organizations' detailed breakdown of the proposed amendments.
Your vote counts, and it's more important than ever in our current post-hurricane environment. Make your voice heard and vote on Sept. 30.
1) Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund
2) Consolidation of Coastal Funds
It took two deadly hurricanes to do it, but Louisiana leaders and residents now fully understand the crucial importance of coastal restoration and restoring our barrier wetlands. The first amendment would exclusively dedicate federal royalty revenues to coastal preservation, coastal protection and hurricane protection. Amendment No. 2 would dedicate potential revenue from a sale of the state's tobacco-lawsuit settlement to coastal restoration. We vote FOR both amendments.
3) Regional Flood Protection Authorities
The only people who support maintaining Louisiana's Byzantine and wasteful model of multiple levee boards are the beneficiaries of the wasteful patronage that accompanies the system. While this amendment wouldn't achieve the most efficient model of one levee board in charge of the state, it does consolidate more than 20 levee districts into two regional flood-protection agencies. We vote FOR Amendment 3.
4) Hurricane Protection Liability
5) Limits on Expropriation of Private Property
6) Procedures to Transfer Expropriated Property
Eminent domain and the seizure of private land by the government has become an emotional national issue, but the topic's particularly relevant in post-storm Louisiana as property owners worry about government's ability and intentions to take private property. Amendment 4 is particularly galling, as it would reduce the amount government would have to pay property owners if it seized private land. Amendment 5 is supposed to prevent the state from taking private land for economic development, while Amendment 6 purports to force the state to offer expropriated land back to property owners in certain circumstances. As PARC and opponents of Amendments 5 and 6 have noted, the language in those two amendments is so vague and muddy that it has no place in the Constitution. We vote AGAINST Amendments 4, 5 and 6.
7) Medicaid Trust Fund Investment
Amendment No. 7 would grant Louisiana government the ability to invest up to 35 percent of the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly into the stock market, which is currently forbidden by the state Constitution. But this is a wise financial move, as the stock market historically outperforms fixed-rate funds. The risk associated with stock-market investment is also minimized by the 35 percent cap, so we vote FOR Amendment 7.
8) Homestead Exemptions and Special Assessments for Damaged Homes
For homes damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster, this amendment provides property owners continued homestead exemptions ' with the caveat that the homeowners would have to return to live in their damaged home within five years. This not only helps protect homeowners' financial investment in their property, it provides an incentive for storm-affected residents to rebuild and stay in Louisiana. We vote FOR Amendment 8.
9) State Mandates on School Spending
Much like Amendments 5 and 6, this proposal to require local school boards to spend mandated amounts to achieve education goals is admirable in its intent, but the wording of the amendment is rife with vague language and possible loopholes. We vote AGAINST Amendment 9.
10) Higher Education InvestmentsThis amendment functions like Amendment 5 does for the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly. It would allow endowed college and university funds to invest up to 35 percent of their portfolios in the stock market, and we vote FOR Amendment 10.
11) Homestead Exemption for Homes in Revocable Trusts
The Constitution currently allows the homestead exemption for properties placed in irrevocable trusts, and this amendment would extend that to revocable trusts. Relying on the homestead exemption already contributes to the state's overreliance on regressive sales taxes, and we view this amendment as another unnecessary addition to the Constitution that could be handled statutorily. We vote AGAINST Amendment 11.
12) Vacancy in Statewide Elected Offices
If the Lt. Governor position is vacated for some reason, this amendment provides a clear procedure for filling the job vacancy. The governor's choice for the position would have to be confirmed by the House and the Senate, and if more than one year remained in the term, a special election would be called to allow voters to decide who should be Lt. Governor. We vote FOR Amendment 12.
13) Judges' Qualifications
Simply put, this amendment would raise the bar for our judicial system. It requires district court judges to serve as attorneys for eight years rather than five years before taking the bench, and increases the service requirements from five years to 10 years for appellate judges and Supreme Court justices. We vote FOR Amendment 13.
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
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"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
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The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.
The latest meeting of a south Louisiana flood board that stirred political turmoil with a lawsuit against the oil and gas industry is taking place amid uncertainty over the future of the lawsuit — and the board's own membership.
The photos taken nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico are so clear that small holes are visible in a lifeboat that may have gone down or been scuttled when a passenger ship was sunk by a Nazi submarine in 1942.
Advocate columnist and Jindal shill Quin Hillyer has been against the New Orleans levee board lawsuit from day one, but a recent piece targeting author/activist John Barry prompted the perfect rebuttal from the board’s former vice-president, who takes Hillyer to task on just about every distorted claim he’s made on the issue.
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year.
"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House showing his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.
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The legal challenge is part of a continuing struggle over Common Core, which has become controversial since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in 2010.
The lone Democrat to announce he's running for governor, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, criticized Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's budgeting tactics as "running the state like a big Ponzi scheme."