November 4, 2014 LA Constitutional Amendments (Part 2 of 2)

The November 4, 2014 ballot in Louisiana will include 14 constitutional amendments. Last week I wrote about the first 7 proposed amendments. This post will cover proposed amendments 8-14. 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.

8.) Sure, programs to create artificial reefs, certify wild-caught fish, and develop inshore fish habitats are interesting and probably useful. However, I oppose making these projects so vitally important that the funding for them becomes protected by our Constitution. This is exactly the kind of thing that belongs in statutes where the funding can be adjusted for other needs.

9.) The number of individuals in Louisiana who qualify for the freeze on their property tax assessments is relatively small (5,660 as of 2012). However, eliminating the requirement that these 5,660 people certify each year that their income is not too high to qualify for the freeze would be a bad idea. It doesn’t take much imagination to come up with ways this honor system could be taken advantage of. Chiefly, imagine a person becomes eligible for the freeze due to a sudden disability from an accident. At the time of their qualification for the assessment freeze their income is under the $67,670 (adjusted for inflation) threshold. Yet, suppose that 2 years later they receive a large cash settlement or insurance payout that causes them to no longer qualify for the freeze. This amendment would rely on the individual to voluntarily report that they will now lose the tax cut. I oppose the amendment because it is not too much to ask for simple income verification in exchange for a tax break that is partly based on income.

10.) While I do not find this amendment to be an unreasonable compromise from a policy standpoint, on a matter of principle I must oppose it. I am supportive of this amendment only impacting vacant, abandoned, and “blighted” properties, rather than also including occupied properties. However, removing 18 months of redemption opportunity for a property owner that is behind on their taxes for any number of reasons is not something I will support. Protecting property rights is supposed to be one of the key functions of government. This amendment takes away the protection of property for the sake of expediency and convenience.

11.) When I first read this proposed amendment I literally laughed out loud. It had might as well simply asked if we approved of increasing the size of the state government. I’m sure that those who desire to create the Department of Elderly Affairs have noble goals, but creating an entirely new department for those goals is unnecessary. If supporters want the existing services for the elderly to run more efficiently, then work with those existing programs. Placing them all under one department does not mean they will magically become more efficient and save money. If anything, I imagine the department would quickly begin coming up with new services and programs that the elderly in Louisiana “need.” I oppose.

12.) I am skeptical as to why this provision is in the Constitution in the first place. We should not have to ask the people of Louisiana how the make-up of the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission should be allocated. I have no idea what the best allocation should be or what the factors that go into such a consideration even are. This is exactly the kind of thing that belongs in the hands of the legislature. Aside from all of that, there is nothing that prevents the Governor from appointing members from northern Louisiana as it is, so I oppose.

13.) Even if I were not worried about the concerns that this proposed amendment may have problems complying with federal law, I would still oppose it. If people are not willing to pay fair market value for property, then perhaps that is a market signal that the properties don’t need to be bought or sold. Arbitrarily setting the price at $100 is a pure manipulation of the property market and unwise. We should not force New Orleans to sell property on the cheap merely because there are some people who would like to buy the property, but not for the fair market value. Would it be nice if the Lower 9th Ward were a bustling community rather than essentially vacant? Maybe so. If that’s the case, let the market prove it rather than allowing the government to create an incentive to buy property that on its own terms is not attractive enough to warrant buyer interest.

14.) Would you like to be able to have your tax bill cut every year or only every other year? I absolutely oppose preventing the legislature from considering cutting taxes whenever the chance may arise. Sure it sounds nice that general bills are considered during general sessions and fiscal bills during fiscal sessions, but I am not willing to limit the opportunities for tax decreases. On the other side of the same coin, I of course support limiting the ability of the legislature to raise taxes to every other year.

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