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 City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
San Fran wins the World Series; Sistine Chapel improvements; Kurds moving toward Syria and more national and international news for Thursday, October 30, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
Saints fans were to gather, make merry, eat/drink compliments of a new Downtown group and watch the Saints beat Carolina and claim 1st place in the NFC South. But...
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram doesn't see his dramatic spike in production as any sort of validation.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is facing off one last time with her two main Republican challengers before next week's election.
He’s pulling for Knezek and Hidalgo on his end of the parish but issued endorsements in three other districts as well.
Off a narrow gravel road running between a handful of mostly abandoned lots near a Mississippi River levee, down past sprawling oak trees and thick weeds, a lectern framed by banana trees has been set up in front of three short rows of folding chairs.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is heading to New Orleans this weekend to stir up voter support for Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Saints coach Sean Payton has spent much of his team's erratic season trying to build his players up.
The Daily Advertiser has weighed in on this year's LPSB elections with nine endorsements.