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Proposed Statewide Constitutional Amendments Explained

Sep 30, 2019 01:16PM ● By Staff Writer

Voters statewide will be asked to decide YES or NO on four proposed amendments to the Louisiana Constitution on the October 12, ballot.*

These proposed amendment changes were passed during the regular legislative session earlier this year. The House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure reviewed each one for clarity. Each bill received at least a two-thirds favorable vote in the House of Representatives and in the Senate and now needs a majority vote at the polls for passage. The governor cannot veto a constitutional amendment bill.

The Constitutional Amendments are (See the complete non-partisan review by P.A.R., click the attached pdf file.):

NO. 1 (ACT 444 - HB 234) - Tax Exemptions for Outer Continental Shelf

A YES vote would create a property tax exemption for certain goods destined for the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico.

A NO vote would continue such taxation unless ruled unconstitutional under the U.S. commerce clause.

PROPOSED CHANGE

This amendment would prohibit property taxes on raw materials, goods, commodities and articles stored for maintenance if destined for the Outer Continental Shelf. While part of the United States, the OCS is not subject to the jurisdiction of individual states. If the amendment does not pass, the tax on such property would continue to be levied. Lawsuits could follow to determine if the tax passes muster with the U.S. Constitution. The number of parishes immediately affected by this amendment would be relatively small and mostly confined to areas near the Gulf of Mexico.

NO. 2 (ACT 445 - HB 62) - Amend Education Excellence Fund

A YES vote would allow the Education Excellence Fund to finance three more schools and public TV.

A NO vote would keep the Fund’s money limited to the current recipients.

PROPOSED CHANGE

The amendment would add appropriations to one legislatively approved special school, Thrive Academy, and two laboratory schools operated by colleges — the Louisiana State University Laboratory School and the Southern University Laboratory school. Each school would receive $75,000 plus the average per pupil amount the Fund pays to other public schools. The Louisiana Educational Television Authority (LETA), which is not a school but is a state agency providing statewide educational programming through Louisiana Public Broadcasting, would receive $75,000 annually as part of the proposed changes. The amendment also performs housekeeping by removing an outdated provision of the Constitution that is no longer in force.

NO. 3 (ACT 446 - HB 428) - Remedy for Unconstitutional Tax Paid

A YES vote would allow the Board of Tax Appeals to rule on constitutional questions.

A NO vote would continue to assign constitutional questions in tax disputes only to the courts.

PROPOSED CHANGE

The proposed amendment would enhance the scope and power of the Board of Tax Appeals and allow the body to rule on whether taxation and fee matters are constitutional under Louisiana or U.S. law. This level of authority is not generally allowed for executive branch agencies. However, the American Bar Association recommends that executive branch tax tribunals should possess at least some limited authority to consider constitutional issues on specific grievances that come before those bodies. Many state tribunals may do so. This amendment would let taxpayers have their entire tax dispute heard in one forum and could expedite resolution. The Board decisions could be appealed to state courts. Taxpayers still would have the option to take their case to the courts instead of the Board of Appeals. The Legislature would be able to pass laws affecting the Board’s jurisdiction and other related matters with a 2/3 vote.

NO. 4 (ACT 448 - SB 79) – Allow New Orleans Property Tax Exemptions

A YES vote would give New Orleans the ability to create a residential property tax exemption for affordable housing developments.

A NO vote would keep the current property tax structure in New Orleans.

PROPOSED CHANGE

The amendment would grant the City of New Orleans the ability to establish property tax exemptions for residential properties that provide affordable housing. Developments over 15 units and short-term rental properties, such as for Airbnb lodging, would be ineligible. The tax assessments could be fully or partially exempted. Properties could be upgraded without being taxed for the added value. Depending on how the city structures the program, the target could be owner-occupied homes, with the exemption applying directly to the homeowner, or rental homes or apartments with the tax break going to the landlord or developer in exchange for affordable rents. New Orleans would create the rules and process for the program, which could vary greatly depending on how it is constructed. The precise definition of “affordable” housing would be left to the city to decide.

Companion legislation requires proposed rules to be published 30 days before becoming effective with at least one public hearing during that period. The exemption would apply to all property taxes collected including resources that otherwise would flow to the sheriff, parks, libraries and schools. To take effect, the proposed amendment would have to be approved by a majority of the voters in Orleans Parish as well as statewide. New Orleans would be required to absorb any decreases in specific ad valorem tax collections as a result of this new authority.

*Portions of this overview were researched and provided with permission by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR), an independent, unbiased source of information on state and local government issues. PAR’s only business is research, they do not lobby or have a PAC, and believing that the best way to improve government operations in Louisiana is through an informed citizenry. To learn more about PAR, visit http://parlouisiana.org.  

Photo: Parish News File
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