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.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
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High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.