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The 4 constitutional amendments on Louisiana’s November ballot — explained

A sign outside Warren Easton Charter High School on Canal Street in New Orleans signals a Ward 6 polling place for the Louisiana primaries, on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023.
Aubri Juhasz
A sign outside Warren Easton Charter High School on Canal Street in New Orleans signals a Ward 6 polling place for the Louisiana primaries Oct. 14, 2023.

In addition to voting for Louisiana’s remaining statewide positions and a slate of local offices in November’s general election, voters will also consider multiple constitutional amendments.

The four amendments on the ballot in October’s primary all passed with a majority of the vote. Now, voters will consider four more on separate issues.

Louisiana’s state constitution, which was adopted in 1974, is one of the longest in the nation, with hundreds of amendments. Often, proposed measures are meant to clarify existing parts.

To help voters evaluate the amendments and make an informed decision, the Public Affairs Research (PAR) Council has published a guide to the constitutional amendments that details the content of each amendment as well as arguments for and against each one. Voters can also browse a one-page version of their guide.

Here is a quick look at the four proposed amendments that will appear on November’s ballot, based on PAR's guide. Each amendment is phrased as it appears on the ballot.

Amendment No. 1: Provides relative to timing of gubernatorial action on a bill and related matters.

Under the state Constitution, veto sessions — in which the Legislature has a stretch of time to override vetoes from the governor — are automatically scheduled to begin 40 days after a legislative session adjourns, unless a majority of lawmakers send in ballots to cancel the session.

Until the administration of Gov. John Bel Edwards, Louisiana lawmakers had always voted to cancel their scheduled veto sessions. But in the most recent term, the state Legislature has held three veto sessions to override Edwards.

What it comes down to is logistics: In 2022, Edwards vetoed the congressional map passed by the state Legislature, and the scheduled start of the veto session fell in the middle of a regular legislative session. A legal dispute broke out about whether lawmakers must temporarily adjourn from their regular session to go into a separate veto session — or if they could override Edwards’ veto while convened for the regular session.

In the end, the regular session was paused while lawmakers convened for a short and separate veto session. But this proposed amendment would bypass that trouble by allowing lawmakers to override a veto if they are already convened for a legislative session without having to pause such a session and hold a separate veto session.

Amendment No. 2: Repeals certain funds in the state treasury.

The second proposed constitutional amendment is largely meant to clean up Louisiana’s lengthy state Constitution. It would remove six inactive funds from the Constitution.

Five of those funds — the Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund, Higher Education Louisiana Partnership (HELP) Fund, Millennium Leverage Fund, Agricultural and Seafood Products Support Fund and First Use Tax Trust Fund — contain no money.

The sixth fund, the Louisiana Investment Fund for Enhancement (LIFE), has about $600 in it. If repealed, that money would be moved to the state general fund, and lawmakers could use it as they choose.

The Public Affairs Research Council does not take positions on individual constitutional amendments, but PAR’s president, Steven Procopio, said this amendment was largely influenced by a previous PAR recommendation for constitutional reform.

Amendment No. 3: Provides for an ad valorem tax exemption for certain first responders.

Under the state’s homestead exemption, most Louisianans get an exemption from parish property taxes on the first $75,000 of the home they live in. This amendment would allow local authorities to approve an additional property tax exemption of up to $25,000 for sheriffs, police officers and other certain first responders in addition to that $75,000.

If the amendment passes, local governing authorities won’t be required to give the exemption — but it opens up the option for them to give an exemption, up to $25,000.

If a parish adopts this additional tax break for first responders, the amendment prohibits imposing additional taxes and fees or reappraising property to make up for any revenue loss from the exemption.

Amendment No. 4: Provides relative to the use of monies in the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund.

The final amendment that will appear on voters’ ballots in the November general election would add more restrictions to lawmakers’ use of the state’s Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund.

The Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund is a savings account created by lawmakers in 2016. Its funding relies heavily on corporate taxes, and the account has already amassed over $2 billion. When the savings account reaches $5 billion, lawmakers have the option to automatically use up to 10% of that funding on construction and infrastructure projects. But as it stands right now, lawmakers could also use any amount of that money in any undefined emergency with a two-thirds vote — meaning they could drain the entire fund at any time.

This amendment seeks to add limits to lawmakers’ ability to draw money from the fund. If the state is facing a budget shortfall, lawmakers must first use the available funds in the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as the rainy day fund, which has about $900 million right now.

If lawmakers have used all available money from the rainy day fund and still face a budget shortfall, then they could withdraw up to $250 million from the Revenue Stabilization Fund with a two-thirds vote.

Lawmakers can still use up to 10% of the fund on construction and infrastructure projects when it reaches $5 billion. And with a two-thirds vote, the amendment still allows lawmakers to access any amount of the fund at any time to spend on construction and infrastructure projects.

More resources

In addition to PAR’s guide, voters can browse an analysis of the amendments from the Council for a Better Louisiana, another public policy group. Their analysis recommends a position to take on each amendment.

Additionally, voters can view and print sample ballots, which they can bring with them into the voting booth on Election Day.

Louisiana’s early voting period begins on Friday, Nov. 3 and runs through Nov. 11. Early voting locations will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day during that time, except for Sunday, Nov. 5, and Friday, Nov. 10.

Louisianans don’t need a reason to vote early — anyone can do so. Voters should check the Secretary of State's website to find their early voting location, which is often different from regular polling locations on election day.

The general election is on Saturday, Nov. 18.

Molly Ryan is a political reporter and covers state politics from the Louisiana Capitol.

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