Election Day is Nov. 6, and I hope you are ready to vote. There are local, state and national decisions each of us must make, and you should examine the issues and the candidates as the outcomes will impact you and your business.
Here is Part 1 of where I stand, beginning with the constitutional amendments, which should serve as a framework for managing critical state issues, with details provided by statutes. As always, I find we make way to many changes in our constitution (more than 200 have been proposed and more than 150 approved since 1974). History shows no one seems to trust the Legislature (who we all elect), and therefore we “dedicate” many of the funds and end up tying our hands in the future, allowing little flexibility to change when necessary.
Today in business, one must be fast and flexible to adapt—and government doesn't do that. That's why it is often a most inefficient and ineffective operation. More constitutional amendments don't help that. Nonetheless, there are some issues that must be handled in the constitution. This year, some of the amendments sound better than they are, and one is a statewide local option that will be decided parish by parish.
No. 1: Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly - NO
People often complain about dedicating more funds in the constitution. That's what this does. This fund was established in 2000, and the money is used for the poor and elderly in nursing homes and home health—a worthy purpose.
But the statutes clearly define the use of the funds, and the federal government can demand repayment if they are used for unintended purposes. Many other funds would also like constitutional protection. In principle, we should not keep adding dedications, even in cases like this.
This amendment says, “The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be infringed. Any restriction on this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.” The NRA supports No. 2, and says, if approved, “Louisiana will have the strongest guarantee of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in the nation.” Many refer to what happened after Katrina, when guns were confiscated from law-abiding citizens, leaving them defenseless against looters, who were often armed. (The confiscated guns were never returned.) While we already have strong gun laws, the Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that a majority in the Legislature may restrict gun rights if they consider it reasonable. Some say that will never happen here, but passage of this amendment will ensure that possession of firearms is a fundamental right protected in Louisiana.
No. 3: Earlier Notice of Public Retirement Bills - NO
A vote “for” would require that bills affecting the state's public retirement systems be filed a month earlier than other types of legislation submitted prior to a legislative session. There are many bills that bring changes, require discussion, need consensus—and are amended in the legislative process—other than just “public retirement bills.” And filing earlier doesn't mean all the details will be provided; it just seems to me this is a “call to arms” for the opposition, who want a warning. We shouldn't amend the constitution for the wishes of public employees. If the filing date is too late for these bills, why not move it up for all?
No. 4: Homestead Exemption for Veterans' Spouses - NO
Here is another amendment (like No. 1) that is hard to oppose because it is for the benefit of spouses of disabled veterans. Who can be against that? But I opposed the original amendment because there were already provisions in the law allowing benefits to vets. Again, the amendment was unnecessary, in my opinion. Now that it passed, we learned that one spouse is affected by the timing of a death and the exemption, so we are having to change our constitution for one person. This highlights the problem with putting everything in the constitution. One legislator trying to accommodate one constituent, and we have to have a statewide vote to change our constitution. Absurd.
No. 5: Forfeiture of Public Retirement Benefits - YES
This amendment mostly sends a message and provides another tool for a state judge. It doesn't go far enough, in my opinion. It allows a judge to take away the state retirement portion from any public servant convicted of a felony related to their job or office. It only applies to those hired after Jan. 1, 2013. And it doesn't apply to federal courts, where many prosecutions occur. But it could be a deterrent and facilitate retribution for abuse of the public trust.
No. 6: Property Tax Exemption Authority for New Iberia - NO
This is one change for one city, which could lead to many others wanting the same. It is vague, and those that don't qualify for the state program could qualify in New Iberia—all at the discretion of the City Council. It appears the city can accomplish the same thing with a rebate program and not an amendment to our constitution.
No. 7: Membership of Certain Boards and Commissions - YES
Unfortunately, the membership selection process for some state boards and commissions is outlined in our constitution and based on seven congressional districts. That will change to six on Jan. 1, 2013. Therefore, we must change how six statewide boards are structured, including the LSU Board of Supervisors, on which I currently serve. Once again, this points out how the constitution should be used for a framework (stating that these boards are based on congressional districts in general) and allow the statutes to fill in the details.
No. 8: Non-Manufacturing Tax Exemption Program - YES
This is an economic development issue, but one that is voluntary for each parish. They may opt in—and later opt out. To opt in would require unanimous support in the parish among all those with taxing authority and the assessor. For participating parishes, the state could provide a property tax exemption to specific non-manufacturing businesses that meet certain job and investment criteria. Targets are corporate headquarters, digital media or software development centers, research and development facilities, and distribution centers. The state constitution currently allows such exemptions only for manufacturing facilities. This just creates a tool for the state and any parish or town that wants to participate and target these jobs. No one is required to participate, or to remain in the program permanently. It's a good option to have to compete.
No. 9: More Notice for Crime Prevention District Bills – NO
To create a crime district (tax) one must get a petition for an election—or have a legislator submit a bill. Before the session, a legal notice must be run twice to provide public notice of the proposal. Now we are voting to change our constitution to require three ads. The intent was to better inform voters who might oppose the tax. But in the future, the best option may be to require the petition for a vote so there is clear support and notice.
LOCAL OPTION: Term Limits for School Board Members - YES
This is an amendment that each parish will decide for itself. Where voters pass the measure, school board members will be limited to three consecutive four-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2014. The statewide education board, BESE, is currently limited to three terms. Jefferson and Lafayette parishes also have term limits on their school board. I support the idea for all school boards. (I just wish it were retroactive. It is not.)
comments powered by Disqus
Real estate recap: DPW reorganization recommendations coming … Capital Region home sales post 5% gain in February … WWII bombing range near Hammond at center of new lawsuit
The case for coming home
Office Parks Get a Makeover
What Families Are Spending on Prom Night