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The Louisiana State Capitol

From 1995 to 2018, 185 amendments to the Louisiana Constitution of 1973 have been proposed to the state’s voters.

75% of them have been approved.

In 2019, that number of propositions will increase by four as state residents will determine the fate of a new set of amendments that will be up for vote this October.

One amendment will focus on New Orleans only, while the other three will be state-wide with two focused on property taxes and tax appeals, and another focused on the education fund.

1) Do you support an amendment to allow the City of New Orleans to exempt property within Orleans Parish from all or part of ad valorem taxes that would otherwise be due for the purpose of promoting affordable housing?

The New Orleans Affordable Housing Property Tax Exemption Amendment passed with 71% of the vote in the state senate, and 87% in the house. The amendment would allow the New Orleans and Orleans parish governments to exempt certain properties, with 15 residential units or less and not including short-term rental properties, from property taxes.

This could be a portion, full exemption, or freeze the assessed values of a property. Currently, Orleans parish residents pay 194.9 mills on property.

The purpose of the amendment is, per its proponents, to provide more affordable housing options in Orleans parish.

2) Do you support an amendment to exempt raw materials, goods, commodities, personal property, and other articles stored in public and private warehouses and destined for the Outer Continental Shelf from ad valorem taxes?

The Louisiana Property Tax Exemption for Stored Materials Routed for Outer Continental Shelf Amendment would exempt all raw materials, goods, commodities, personal property, and other articles being stored in Louisiana in public or private warehouses but destined for the Outer Continental Shelf.

89% of the senate voted yes to place the measure on the ballot, while 86% of the house voted yes.

The amendment would affect those pieces of property, heading to oil rigs and other places at least three miles off shore, and place them under an exemption status.

Currently, only goods that are destined to leave the country are exempt. The law affected oil and gas companies in three parishes, which were being charged - according to the president of the Louisiana Oil and Gass Association - for property not previously assessed.

3) Do you support an amendment to provide for appropriations from the Education Excellence Fund for the Louisiana Educational Television Authority, Thrive Academy, and laboratory schools operated by public postsecondary education institutions? (Amends Article VII, Section 10.8(C)(3)(b), (c), and (g); Repeals Article VII, Section 10.8(C)(3)(d))

The Lousiana Education Excellence Fund Uses Amendment would allow the legislature to appropriate revenue from the Education Excellence Fund (EEF) to the Louisiana Education Television Authority (LETA); Thrive Academy; and laboratory schools operated by public colleges.

LETA provides education television programming across the state, Thrive Academy is a state-funded public charter boarding school in Baton Rouge, and lab(oratory) schools are elementary and secondary (K-12) education institutions operated in association with or by universities and colleges used for providing future teachers or teacher-candidates with classroom teaching experiences.

The funds would be appropriated as follows:

  • LETA: $75,000 per year
  • Thrive Academy: $75,000 per year, plus an allocation for each pupil
  • Laboratory schools: As a block grant on a per-pupil basis

The EEF is a trust fund within the Millenium Trust, whose revenue is generated through money the state receives from tobacco settlements.

Currently, eligibile recipients of EEF funds include the following:

  • Local education agencies such as public and city school districts
  • Louisiana Special Schools
  • Brumfield vs. Dodd-approved, non-public schools and dioceses
  • Charter Schools

EEF funds may be used for the following purposes:

  • Early childhood education programs focused on enhancing the preparation of at-risk children for school
  • Remedial instruction and assistance to children who fail to achieve the required scores on any tests, of which passage is required pursuant to state law or rule for advancement to a succeeding grade
  • Other education programs approved by the legislature such as administration; extended instruction; instructional technology, personnel certification and professional develpoment; pre-school instruction; school accountability and improvement; support services; and more

Recipients may not use EEF funds to supplant any state general fund revenue or locally generated revenue.

4) Do you support an amendment to protect taxpayers by requiring a complete remedy in law for the prompt recovery of any unconstitutional tax paid and to allow the jurisdiction of the Board of Tax Appeals to extend to matters related to the constitutionality of taxes?

The Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals Jurisdiction Amendment would apply four pieces to the state’s constitution, which are:

  • Allow the legislature, through a two-thirds vote, to give the Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals jurisdiction over the constitutionality of taxes, fees, and related matter
  • Require prompt recovery by taxpayers of any unconstitutional tax paid
  • Establish authority for the board in the state constitution, subject to changes made by laws passed by a two-thirds vote in the legislature
  • State in the constitution that the Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals has jurisdiction over any disputes concerning state and local taxes, fees, or other claims against the state

Currently, a taxpayer may appeal to the board for matters related to assessments, refund claims, or determinations of alleged overpayment. Under the amendment and it’s implementing legislation, a taxpayer would also be able to petition the board for declaratory judgement related to the constitutionality of laws or ordinances, or the validity of a regulation.

The change is that, historically, the Board of Tax Appeals could not handle cases wherein the constitutionality of a tax or fee, levied by government, was challenged - it was handled through state courts.

This amendment would repeal that law and expand the board’s purview to included all matters relating to state or local taxes and fees.

A constitutional convention is currently being discussed by both politicians and those who surround the capital.

The last convention was in 1973.

Louisiana’s current constitution is nearly 10 times as long as it’s federal counterpart. But, more troubling to lawmakers is not the word count but the financial bind the constitution puts them in, year-over-year.

As of the 2019 session, excluding federal aid, $4 billion of Louisiana’s annual spending is set aside by the Constitution or state law for various programs. Roughly $6 billion is left, which is spent on health care and higher education - which is why those areas are always the first to experience cuts.

Both active lawmakers, and those seeking state-level offices in the 2019 election, have offered positive reviews to the idea of a constitutional convention in some way, shape, or form.

Several versions of a convention have been offered - from a small committee, to a full-on convention, similar to 1973, in which representatives would appoint a delegate

One current lawmker did hope that future delegates would be properly vetted so that the convention would result in ‘the true measure of what the citizens of our state would like to see.’

The News was not able to get in touch with all the candidates seeking a house or senate seat in this election, and has therefore left the names of the representatives out of the story.

Those we could get in touch with offered support, as mentioned. What form the convention took would matter to some, while others echoed that the delegates must be from ‘among the people’ to get a good gauge of what the population of Louisiana truly desires.

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