The nonpartisan Council for a Better Louisiana has researched the amendments and made their recommendations to voters. For detailed information on the amendments, visit www.cabl.org.
Here are The Independent Weekly's positions on the Oct. 20 constitutional amendments:
1. To prohibit the reduction of state salary supplements for full-time law enforcement and fire protection officers.
Of the four proposed amendments, No. 1 is the most controversial. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone that believes policemen and firefighters don't deserve financial protection to ensure that they make an adequate salary for their efforts to protect the public. Currently, part of their salaries is covered through supplemental pay through the state, at a rate of $300 per month. The Legislature increased that amount to $425 per month, but needs this constitutional amendment to pass for the raise to go into effect.
The crux of the debate over this issue is state versus local responsibility for law enforcement and fire protection salaries. Local policemen and firefighters work for local governments, yet the state currently contributes $5,100 per year toward each employee's salary, for a total of nearly $100 million shouldered by state taxpayers.
In addition to increasing that amount, this amendment would continue the unfortunate trend of local government relying too heavily on state government. And should Louisiana face a budget crisis, the amendment prevents state government from having the discretion to use those funds for potentially pressing needs.
We recommend voting AGAINST Constitutional Amendment No. 1.
2. To authorize the Legislature to supplement the uniform pay plan of sworn, commissioned law enforcement officers employed by a bona fide police agency of the state or its political subdivisions and for fire protection officers employed by a port authority from any available funds of the state, the department, the agency, or the political subdivision, provided that such supplement may be made available only for those law enforcement officers employed on a full-time basis who serve the welfare of the public in the capacity of a police officer by providing police services to the general public, by effecting arrests, issuing citations, and serving warrants while patrolling waterways and riverfront areas and for those fire protection officers employed on a full-time basis who provide fire protection services to a port authority.
That's a mouthful. If passed, this amendment would expand state supplemental pay for port authority workers, including firefighters and state law enforcement officers. Like constitutional amendment No. 1, the objective is worthy, but it would be extremely difficult to change if it's written into the constitution and opens the door to future supplemental pay amendments for other state workers.
We recommend voting AGAINST constitutional amendment No. 2.
3. To provide that no benefit provision for members of any state retirement system having an actuarial cost shall be approved by the legislature unless a funding source providing new or additional funds sufficient to pay all such actuarial cost within 10 years of the effective date of the benefit provision is identified in such enactment.
Constitutional amendment No. 3 would affect the rules for retiring new debt in the state retirement system. It would require a funding source to be identified to pay for benefits before future benefits are approved, and require any debt from increased benefits to be paid back within 10 years. Simply put, this is smart and responsible fiscal policy.
We recommend voting FOR constitutional amendment No. 3.
4. To exempt consigned jewelry from ad valorem property taxation.
We suspect only an accountant or lawyer would understand the term "ad valorem property taxation," so here's this amendment in plain language: Jewelry on consignment would be exempt from property tax. It piggybacks on an amendment passed last year that exempted consigned artwork from property tax; jewelers would benefit by allowing retailers to keep their items in stock for potential sales and higher sales tax, rather than forcing retailers to ship back items at the end of the year to avoid property tax.
We support the intent behind the amendment, but like so many other constitutional amendments, it opens up Pandora's box for future amendments. For example, would an independent clothier who offers retailers their products on consignment be next in line for a similar constitutional amendment?
We recommend voting AGAINST constitutional amendment No. 4.
The Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.