6 amendments on Nov. 6 ballot

Published 4:30 am Saturday, October 27, 2018

Washington Parish voters who are participating in this November’s election will also get to let their voices be heard concerning several statewide constitutional amendments.

Early voting continues today through Tuesday, Oct. 30 (at Northshore Technical College from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day, except closed on Sunday), and the actual Election Day will be Tuesday, Nov. 6. The ballot contains six proposed constitutional amendments, as well as one parish-specific legislative proposal.

The Public Affairs Research Council (PAR) has offered some information concerning each amendment. More detailed information is also available at the council’s website online at www.parlouisiana.org.

Amendment No. 1 concerns prohibiting felons from holding office.

In 1998, Louisiana voters adopted a constitutional amendment prohibiting felons from seeking or holding elective or appointive office unless they had been pardoned or waited at least 15 years after the completion of their sentence. However, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that it was not constitutionally adopted, because the language presented to voters differed from what the state legislature approved.

  • A vote for this amendment would establish a constitutional prohibition against a felon holding an elected or appointed position “of honor, trust or profit in this state” until at least a five-year period, which includes probation or parole, has elapsed since completing the sentence.

Amendment No. 2 concerns a unanimous verdict for all felony cases.

Currently, only Louisiana and Oregon allow convictions for non-capital felony offenses with less than a unanimous decision of the jury. In Louisiana, a person can be sent to prison for up to life with a 10-2 vote, but conviction of a charge that could receive a death penalty requires a unanimous decision.

  • A vote for this amendment would require a unanimous jury verdict for all felony convictions for offenses committed on or after Jan. 1, 2019.

Amendment No. 3 concerns the lending of equipment and personnel for governmental bodies.

The present constitution bans lending, pledging or donating funds, credit, or the property of the state or any of its political subdivisions (municipalities or parishes) to any person, association or corporation, with numerous exceptions.

  • A vote for this amendment would add to those exceptions the following: the donation of and use of public equipment and personnel within political subdivisions, and the loan, pledge or guarantee of public funds by a state infrastructure bank for transportation projects.

Amendment No. 4 concerns removing the authority to fund state police traffic control with the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF).

Proceeds from state taxes on gasoline and other fuels go into the TTF. The constitution allows the fund to be used for certain uses including: state police traffic control, the Statewide Floor Control Program, ports, airports, transit, aviation, and parish transportation, in addition to the building and maintaining of roads and bridges.

  • A vote for this amendment would remove the authority to use the TTF for state police traffic control.

Amendment No. 5 concerns special property tax easement.

Recent amendments to the constitution allow the freezing of property tax assessments for property owned by disabled veterans and their spouses and persons over age 65 (if their adjusted gross income meets certain guidelines), and 100-percent property tax exemptions for the surviving spouses of active duty military, first responders, law enforcement, and fire protection officers killed while performing their duties.

  • A vote for this amendment would also extend these special property tax benefits to those who hold property in trust and meet certain qualifications.

Amendment No. 6 concerns phased-in property tax increases.

The present constitution requires property subject to ad valorem taxes to be listed on the assessment rolls at its assessed value, which is a percentage of its fair market value, and it requires re-appraisal at least every four years.

  • A vote for this amendment would require, phasing in over four years, the increase in the assessed value of residential property if the re-appraised value increased by more than 50 percent. The decrease in the total amount of ad valorem taxes collected as a result of the phase-in could not create additional tax liability for other taxpayers.

A vote against this amendment would require all residential property owners to pay the full increase in the assessed value of their property in the first year.

In addition, voters will be asked their opinion on a proposal that would allow online fantasy sports contests for cash prizes — a type of gambling. Residents of each individual parish, including Washington, are asked to determine whether fantasy sports will be allowed within their individual parishes — similar to how the state determines the legality of video poker machines in Louisiana.

Polls on Election Day will be open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.