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This time, most amendments worthy of passage

Whereas in the Sep. 30 round of constitutional amendments only a few items were hotly debated on their merits, the Nov. 7 round facing Louisiana voters features much dissension among many.

Right off the bat, #1 draws protests that another exception concerning the homestead exemption complicates the process and reduces revenue for local governments. The same kinds of criticisms get registered against #3 and #4.

However, this is permissible if the proportionate good outweighs the reduction in revenue and in two cases that occurs. For #1, the disabled often have lives whose expenses would be unimaginable to people blessed with all of their natural abilities, so the small savings afforded to them by locking in their taxes regardless of increases in value of their homesteads is proper. With #4, the ability to tax moving vehicles as property is unwieldy and probably costs more in enforcement than it’s worth for all but extortionist rates. The argument in both cases that this reduces government revenues is spurious; local governments could ask voters to increase their property taxes in both instances if it were serious about making up such “lost” revenue.

But in the case of #3, its defeat is appropriate. The benefits it would bestow would help just three facilities (in writing off medical equipment for certain hospitals narrowly defined) to the point it seems tailor-made for them. The proportionate good is too small to justify passing these.

Efficiency in government is the standard used against #6 and #8. Proponents claim the former would fragment judicial systems, while the latter would fragment the East Baton Rouge school system. Again, both arguments are wanting. For the former, more specialized courts actually would increase efficiency in case-flow management and, in regards to claims they might become places for more patronage, voters can see to that by their judicious choices in electing officious judges to those positions. For the latter, this kind of maneuver (allowing the city of Central to set up its own school district) is precisely the medicine to reinvigorate the sadly-underperforming East Baton Rouge school district to shape up, while at the same time affording Central residents the chance for increase quality of schooling of their children (is this not similar to the philosophy behind the situation of New Orleans schools, split among straight-up local public, charter, and state-run institutions?)

Finally, while much fuss is made by some about #2, it amounts to simple bookkeeping. If by its passage, which would allow parishes to keep up to $100,000 more a year from severance taxes, indexed by inflation, the state feels it will lose too much money ($3 million which equates to – gasp! – a little more than one ten-thousandth of last year’s state spending), it can adjust revenue-sharing formulas to the parishes by that much. First principles are if government’s going to confiscate your money, better that it be done at lower rather than higher levels justifies voting for this amendment.

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