Amendments added to Fall ballot

July 4, 2007

Reported by: Associate Press

Lawmakers showed restraint in approving and sending only four proposed constitutional amendments to voters in the October 20th elections. That is less than one-fifth the 21 approved by voters last year.

Jim Brandt, president of the Public Affairs Research Council, says many of the 23 proposals introduced in this year's session were overlapping, and some never gained momentum and died in committee.

One of those included the annual attempt to exempt a larger share of a home's value from the property tax rolls. A total of 93 amendments were filed in 2006.

Brandt says usually about 15 percent of the proposals filed in any session become part of the state's charter. The four proposals to be voted on this fall are: to expand the property tax exemption to include consigned jewelry. Voters last year approved a measure to exclude works of art from property taxes; to prohibit lawmakers from reducing the state supplemental pay for police and firefighters. The pay is expected to go from $300 to $425 a month when Governor Kathleen Blanco signs the state's operating budget. Brandt says its passage would mean lawmakers couldn't cut the pay during budget crises without asking voters to approve another change in the state Constitution; to expand the supplemental pay to include firefighters and  police officers employed by port authorities. It would apply to 44 police officers and 10 firefighters at the Port of New Orleans and 14 police officers at the Port of Lake Charles; to require the Legislature to devise ways of financing future benefits for the state's retirement systems when it approves new benefits. The liability of any new benefits must be paid off within ten years.

The proposals were approved by at least a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and now must be ratified by a majority of voters.