October 22 – 5 Constitutional Amendments in Louisiana
Every election it seems, Louisiana adds more amendments to its constitution. Last year, a total of 10 were passed, out of 12 on the ballot and this year, it is surprising that only 5 will go to voters – since the legislature had originally proposed 31!!
Amendment 1 – TOPS Scholarship Program
A yes vote would take the money Louisiana receives from its settlement of a lawsuit against tobacco manufacturers and apply that money to TOPS (the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students). This would only kick in when the trust where the settlement is maturing reaches $1.38 billion.
A yes vote would also make 4 cents of the current 36 cent tax on cigarettes in the state permanent. Currently, the 36 cent tax is set to expire in 2012, but if this bill passes, it will only drop by 32 cents.
TOPS is a scholarship program for students who attend Louisiana’s public colleges or universities.
Amendment 2 – Public Retirement System
Faced with unfunded liabilities to retired public employees, especially teachers, in the Louisiana pension system, this bill is meant to partially solve the issue by applying 5% of all “non-recurring revenue” to paying these liabilities up until 2015 and then the number would increase to 10%.
A yes vote would approve of this change.
Amendment 3 – Patient’s Compensation Fund
Currently, the Louisiana Patient Compensation Fund, a state-run agency, helps pay malpractice claims by health care providers. A yes vote on this amendment would remove state government’s access to the fund, ensuring that none of the money can be used for any purpose other than compensation.
Amendment 4 – Budget Stabilization Fund
Louisiana receives a large amount of “mineral revenues”, payments from companies that extract minerals (including oil). This amendment would mandate that these revenues be partially used to replenish the state’s rainy-day fund, which was tapped into during the budget crunch.
Amendment 5 – New Orleans Property Sales Tax
In an attempt to strengthen the housing market in New Orleans and deal with many abandoned properties left over from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, voters will decide whether to continue an exemption about minimum prices for house sales.
As it stands, and a yes vote would continue this policy, collectors selling property will have no minimum price that they can sell a house for, assuming that there were no buyers who came forward during an initial tax sale (the sale where the price minimum is enough to cover back taxes.)