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Vote for first three, against last four LA measures

Over the next month, Louisianans will vote on six statewide amendments and one common local ballot measure. Here follows a summary of each and recommended voting.

Amendment #1 would prohibit felons from public office for five years after serving a sentence. This puts back into place an amendment nullified by Supreme Court ruling on a technicality, except that one lasted 15 years and this actually expands the prohibition to appointed individuals and in local governments as well.

Five years to earn back public trust seems appropriate, as serving in office is a privilege. A vote for will reestablish something similar to what the state operated under for nearly two decades.

Amendment #2 would require constitutionally a unanimous jury for conviction of all major crimes. At present, concerning major crimes only 10 of 12 must vote for guilt except, by the state’s criminal code, for a crime that can carry a capital sentence.

There’s merit in not requiring unanimity, as this presents mischievous jurors from letting a clearly guilty individual off for politicized reasons. But since conceivably the standard could apply to capital cases and there must be no room for error in those verdicts, voting for the amendment will guarantee that.

Amendment #3 would let one local government loan another one resources for free. Currently, these only may contract not below equivalent value.

Due some legal and constitutional ambiguity, this would make these kinds of matters unambiguously constitutional. A vote for won’t cause anything untoward to happen..

Amendment #4 would remove a provision that allows using some Transportation Trust Fund dollars for “traffic control” purposes. In the past, up to 20 percent of fuel tax funds ended up in budgets for the State Police, but a few years ago state law first circumscribed this, then since policy-makers voluntarily have not made this kind of appropriation, so all proceeds have gone towards infrastructure.

The logic behind this reeks of a “stop me before I kill again” argument. Nothing forces policy-makers to dip into the fund for this purpose. Given the enormous inflexibility in Louisiana’s fiscal structure, there’s no real reason to remove this option, and statute can restrict it, indicating a vote against.

Amendment #5 would extend certain tax exemptions to properties owned by trusts. People fully disabled, veterans at least partially disabled and their surviving spouses, or spouses of those killed in the military, law enforcement, or firefighting agencies can receive partial to total assessed tax exemption according to the Constitution. That currently doesn’t apply to trusts for such individuals, although trust do enjoy the standard homestead exemption.

Unfortunately, this could become complex to administer. Companion legislation says the settlors (donors who create the trust) must have and continue to occupy the property and would qualify for the special assessment. Yet a settlor could game the system, for example, by moving out of state and let children live on the property while claiming the exemption. This foists more bureaucracy on assessors, who already have to keep track of individuals claiming these exemptions, and it keeps chipping away at the tax base, so a negative vote is in order.

Amendment #6 would phase in over four years an increase tax liability for homesteads when quadrennial reappraisal boosts the property’s value more than 50 percent. Modeled after a measure first popularized in California four decades ago, this prevents sticker shock from hitting people with much larger tax bills immediately because of a book value change.

The inherent fairness of this bill becomes diluted when considering a home appraised right at a 50 percent increase wouldn’t qualify for the break. Further, it appears that the ballot language doesn’t match the content of the actual measure – the same problem that got the subject of Amendment #1 thrown out originally, requiring that retry. For these reasons, a negative vote would send matters back to the drawing board for a future better version of the laudable concept.

Then there’s the local option amendment. This would permit online fantasy sports betting through electronic devices within a parish’s boundaries. It occurs already offline or online where clever users circumvent industry-imposed restrictions, and by its legalization governments could collect tax revenues on it.

But this would be an expansion of gambling for legal purposes, and a particularly troubling one as it acts as an enticing gateway. That aspect merits voting against it.

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