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Voters to decide on controversial amendments Sept. 30

By Denise Zeringue -   Aug 31, 2006

On September 30th, you will have 13 amendments to vote on, with an additional 8 amendments on the November 7th ballot.

The Public affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR) explains objectively the impact of these 21 proposals. I want my readers to understand and decide for yourselves weather to vote for or against each amendment based on the following explanation from the PAR web site.
"The number and complexity of amendments voters face this year is much higher than in recent years, and the proposals range from technical and arcane to controversial and popular," said Jim Brandt, president of PAR. "The PAR ‘Guide’ will help voters better understand the propositions and determine for themselves whether to vote for or against each amendment."

The September 30 ballot will present 13 amendments, including several hotly debated proposals on issues like taking private property and reorganization of the levee districts. The November 7 ballot will present 8 amendments, including a proposal to consolidate the property tax assessors in Orleans Parish.

The following summarizes the proposals on the September ballot.

1: The Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund

This amendment would:

• Change the name of the Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Fund to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund; and

• Dedicate all eligible federal revenue from Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas activity to this fund for coastal restoration and hurricane protection.

2: Consolidation of Coastal Funds

This amendment would redirect the balance ($0) and revenues of the Louisiana Coastal Protection Fund into the Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund.

3: Regional Flood Protection Authorities

This amendment would:

• Authorize the legislature to create regional flood protection authorities in the Coastal Zone; and

• Create two regional flood protection authorities in southeast Louisiana to administer levee districts around the New Orleans area.

4: Hurricane Protection Liability

This amendment would reduce the level of compensation paid by the government for taking or damaging private property for hurricane protection projects. However, buildings damaged by a president-declared emergency would remain eligible for the higher compensation for three years after the emergency.

5: Limits to Expropriation

This amendment would place restrictions on the taking of private property for some economic development projects.

6: Expropriation Procedures

The amendment would provide in the constitution a method of selling and leasing some expropriated and surplus property.

7: Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly

This amendment would allow investment of up to 35% of the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly in stocks.

8: Homestead Exemption and Special Assessment for Damaged Homes

This amendment would allow people who cannot reoccupy their homes due to a governor-declared disaster to keep their homestead exemption and special assessment.

9: State Mandates on School Spending

This amendment would prohibit some state mandates to increase local school spending unless passed by a two-thirds vote of the legislature or accompanied by funding or a revenue source.

10: Higher Education Endowments

This amendment would allow private and public colleges and universities to invest up to 35% of endowed public funds in stocks.

11: Homestead Exemption for Revocable Trusts

This amendment would extend the homestead exemption to property placed in revocable trusts.

12: Vacancies in Statewide Elected Offices

This amendment would:

• Require elections to fill vacancies of more than a year in the lieutenant governor’s office; and

• Require special elections to fill vacancies in other statewide elected offices.

13: Judicial Qualifications

This amendment would:

• Increase the amount of time that candidates for judicial office would be required to have been admitted to the practice of law to eight or ten years depending on the court; and

• Reduce the residency requirement for most judgeships from two years to one year.

In evaluating each of the current proposals, Brandt urges voters to consider not only the merits of the amendment, but also whether the proposed language belongs in the constitution.

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