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.
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.