An over-simplified guide to the 2018 constitutional amendments

Photo by Allison DeHart

The gist: No one better untangles the legal spaghetti of Louisiana’s constitutional amendments than PAR. There’s nevertheless an insatiable demand for simpler and simpler explanations of the state’s annual onslaught of obscurity. If PAR’s too lengthy and haiku’s too short, this guide’s for you.

Vote early. Park smart: Early voting started Oct. 23 and ends Oct. 30. The Buchanan Garage is closed. Here’s where to park when you’re voting early Downtown.

Amendment 1: Prohibits convicted felons from holding elected office for five years after completed sentences.

Vote Yes:  Felonious politicos — like Edwin Edwards — should cool their jets a few more years after serving time before serving the public in elected office.

Vote No: A completed sentence is a paid debt. Felons already have a tough time re-entering society.

Fun fact: This replaces an earlier 15-year prohibition that voided on a technicality.

Amendment 2: Requires unanimous jury verdicts in felony trials.

Vote Yes: Louisiana is one of two states where you can be convicted of a felony and serve life in prison even if two jurors don’t think you did it. The law is a relic of post-Reconstruction white supremacy that’s survived for 120 years.

Vote No: You think it should be easy to lock people away forever.

Fun fact: This is a rare case where The Current makes an endorsement. There’s a moral imperative to right a wrong that’s more than a century old. Vote yes.

Amendment 3: Allows local governments to loan or donate equipment or personnel to each other.

Vote Yes: Local governments do this all the time, but the process isn’t exactly straight-forward because of legal prohibitions. It shouldn’t be illegal for Lafayette to share a tractor with Scott.

Vote No: The law is redundant; local governments already share via cooperative endeavor agreements. If Scott wants that tractor, it better sign on the dotted line.  

Fun fact: Lafayette donated a bunch of police cruisers to the re-established New Iberia Police Department this year. NIPD signed a mutual aid agreement to use LPD’s SWAT team while building its own.

Amendment 4: Prohibits using state transportation trust fund dollars for state police

Vote Yes: The state has billions of dollars in backlogged transportation projects. Transportation dollars should be spent on transportation, not traffic control.

Vote No: Lean times call for tough choices, and the state government should have options when shoring up budgets year-to-year.

Fun Fact: Louisiana’s backlog is over $23 billion! That hyperloop will get built long before the backlog is exhausted.

Amendment 5: Extends existing property tax exemptions for disabled veterans and others to properties held in trusts.

Vote Yes: This is a natural extension of existing customs to ease the burden of taxation on those who served and their families.

Vote No: The state of Louisiana’s tax code is a cheesecloth of exceptions. Where does the special treatment stop!?

Patriotic Fact: There are more than 3.8 million veterans in the U.S. living with some combat-related disability. Veterans routinely vote more than non-vets with a participation rate 10 points higher than the rest of the population.

Amendment 6: Creates a four-year phase-in of tax increases linked to property value spikes

Vote Yes: Some property owners can’t keep up with higher taxes when property values skyrocket. This makes those tax bills manageable by phasing in the increase by 25 percent a year over four years instead of all at once.

Vote No: The line of eligibility here is a 50 percent increase in assessed value. Homes below that threshold are left out in the cold arbitrarily. Also, this would make Tax Assessor Conrad Comeaux’s job a lot harder.

Fun Fact: New Orleans Sen. JP Morrell authored the amendment to deal with gentrification and Air BnB.

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