October 24, 2018

Ballot Measures: Louisiana

Early voting ends in Louisiana on October 30th

by Chris Thomas

Photo by William Recinos

Hey Louisiana! Here are the measures on your ballot this year. Rather than try to wade through a bunch of legalese in the ballot box, we’ve distilled these down to simple language and brief history.

Amendment 1

If passed, Amendment 1 would add a section to Article I of the Louisiana Constitution which would ban felons from running for or holding public office in Louisiana.

Why is this on the ballot?

Back in 1998 Louisiana voted overwhelmingly to amend the state constitution in exactly this manner but, due to a printing error, the 1998 ballots omitted a paragraph of the amendment text. In 2016, the Louisiana Supreme Court determined that the vote to approve the amendment was invalid as a consequence.

Impact — Minor

Realistically, anyone actually guilty of a felony is unlikely to have an easy time getting elected. Felony convictions routinely bar people from voting for office, much less holding it.

Support — Bipartisan

Amendment 1 passed the Louisiana Senate unanimously and only a handful of House members (of both parties) voted against it. It’s about an uncontroversial as constitutional amendments get.

Amendment 2

If passed, Amendment 2 would require a unanimous jury to convict someone in a criminal trial. This may come as a surprise as many, as a lot people tend to think that this is already how criminal trials work.

Impact — Major

Under current law only 80% of the jury has to vote to convict. For minorities, this means that a jury with a token minority member is still, effectively, an all-white-jury.

Support — Left Leaning

Democrats and Republicans voted to support the amendment in both houses of the State Legislature but Republicans were much more likely to vote against than Democrats.

Amendment 3

If passed, Amendment 3 would allow “political subdivisions of the state” — so, towns and parishes and the like — to loan each other equipment and personnel via a written agreement.

Why is this on the ballot?

Louisiana auditors got bent out of shape about the loan of a vacuum truck between two cities. They pointed out that the State Constitution prohibits the donation of public funds. This amendment updates the Constitution to allow for loans in the interest of efficiency.

Impact — Minor

This isn’t going to reshape Louisiana politics but it might save some money.

Support — Bipartisan & Overwhelming

This is common sense stuff and it passed both houses of the state legislature unanimously.

Amendment 4

Back in the late 1980s, Louisiana created a Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) to hold money from its gas tax and to pay for transportation infrastructure. It also allowed the State Police to use the fund to cover traffic control expenses. If passed, Amendment 4 would remove the State Police as a beneficiary of the fund.

Why is this on the ballot?

Previous Governors used the money to allow them to under-fund the state police, creating a kind of taxpayer-funded financial shell game.

Impact — Minor

Removing the police as a beneficiary of the fund returns it to its original intent. The current governor is not using the fund to back-fill the police budget.

Support — Unanimous

No Democrats or Republicans voted against this measure in either House of the Legislature.

Amendment 5

Louisiana already has special tax breaks for disabled veterans, widows of first responders, active duty military, law enforcement, and fire protection officers. Under current law, it’s not clear if these benefits apply to trusts held in the names of these individuals. If passed, Amendment 5 would make clear that the exemptions apply to trusts.

Impact — Minor

This is most likely to benefit people with the financial resources to put together a trust fund but the benefits could as easily be gained by moving the home in question out of the trust.

Support — Unanimous

No one votes against the widows of first responders and disabled veterans.

Amendment 6

Reappraisal of a house changes the taxes owed on it. If passed, Amendment 6 would phase in tax increases over a number of years if a reappraisal increases the value of property by more than 50%. Amendment 6 will not apply if the property is sold or the if increase was caused by a development project.

Impact — Minor

The biggest risk this measure poses is that real estate taxes might lag behind property values in rapidly growing areas.

Support — Unanimous

It’s hard to come up with a reason for such a massive spike in valuation but phasing in the tax gives property owners time to find a buyer at a fair price.

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