The November 4, 2014 ballot in Louisiana will include 14 constitutional amendments. The text of the amendments can be found here. The Public Affairs Research Council provides a helpful, non-partisan guide to the amendments. I, however, will provide my own thoughts on the amendments below. This post will cover the first 7 proposed amendments.
1.) Using the Constitution to create inflexible budgeting could be a good thing. However, an inflexible budget presumes that the constitutionally set rate is the correct one. I oppose this amendment because it would require the approval of 2/3 of the legislature (or of the budget committee if the legislature is not in session) to lower the rate. What if the rate deserves to be lowered, but 2/3 of the legislature does not want to be labelled during their next campaign as having taken money away from the poor, elderly, or disabled? In that case, the state Treasurer will be required to pay inflated rates to medical providers.
2.) The proposed amendment is unhelpfully lacking in relevant details. Creating a new system of fees, but not detailing how exactly the fees will be structured or assessed is not something I am prepared to support. A complex system of fees, lacking in specificity, combined with added budget inflexibility (see #1 above), is not an appropriate provision to enshrine in the state Constitution. I oppose.
3.) Government-employed tax collectors are bad enough. I oppose allowing local governments to contract with additional, private tax collectors who are not accountable to the voters.
4.) The legislature was unable to pass legislation that would create the Louisiana Transportation Infrastructure Bank. Even if it had, I would oppose the very existence of the bank because I believe there are better ways to fund transportation projects. As a result, I certainly oppose amending the Constitution to allow for transferring funds to this bank in the event that legislature succeeds in creating it in the future.
5.) I support removing the arbitrary retirement age for state judges. Who knows whether 70 is the right age for every judge to retire? No one could possibly know that. In fact, 4 United States Supreme Court Justices are well over the age of 70, and the only one speculated to be considering retirement, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is 81 (nevermind the fact that most who call for her retirement are doing it for political concerns). There are existing mechanisms in place to remove judges who become unable to do their jobs, yet refuse to voluntarily step down. That mechanism is the appropriate means of accomplishing what an arbitrary age limit attempts to accomplish: having judges without diminished capacity.
6.) Precisely what New Orleans residents need right now is to not require the city to eliminate unnecessary and wasteful spending. Instead, to increase funding for police and fire protection, the city should be allowed to DOUBLE taxes that pay for police and fire protection. That is what this amendment would allow, and obviously I oppose it.
7.) This one is kind of a toss-up for me. Normally, I oppose special tax exemptions for small, specific groups. But, I also normally support tax cuts. In the case of this amendment, since the increased homestead exemption for disabled military veterans would apply to veterans who are determined to be 100% unemployable, the group singled out is certainly sympathetic. For me, the kicker is that the localities losing the revenue are not allowed to makeup the difference by charging everyone else more. As a result, I support it.