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Politics

Amendment 7 On The 2020 Louisiana Ballot: What To Know About Protecting Our Unclaimed Money

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

“Do you support an amendment to create the Louisiana Unclaimed Property Permanent Trust Fund to preserve the money that remains unclaimed by its owner or owners?”

How would it work?

This proposed amendment is the result of a compromise between Gov. John Bel Edwards and State Treasurer John Schroder. Edwards and Schroder spent the better part of a year arguing over what to do with money left over in the state’s unclaimed property fund.

When paychecks aren’t cashed, when utility deposits are forgotten, and when bank accounts lie dormant for too long, that money is eventually turned over to the state treasurer through a process called escheat (NPR’s Planet Money devoted a whole show to the practice earlier this year). The state treasurer is then tasked with getting that money, or “unclaimed property,” back to its rightful owners. Each year the state collects more unclaimed property from businesses than it is able to return to citizens, so the excess is typically made available to the legislature.

State lawmakers have felt so secure in that revenue source that in 2011 they decided to dedicate $15 million of unclaimed property each year for bond payments on the expansion of Interstate 49.

But since taking office in 2017, Schroder has made a big push to get more of that unclaimed property back to its owners. He created a website and hired additional staff. In 2018 and 2020, he had to temporarily pause refunds because transferring tens of millions of dollars to the legislature left him with too little money at the end of the program year.

This amendment would avoid that by creating the Unclaimed Property Permanent Fund. The state’s annual collections from businesses would be placed in an escrow account and used to pay refunds for the year. Anything leftover would be transferred to the new Unclaimed Property Permanent Fund. The treasurer would invest that money, keeping enough on hand to pay claims should they ever exhaust the funds in the escrow account. Any investment earnings or interest generated by the fund could be spent on state services.

Who’s for it and who’s against it?

After years of acrimonious debate, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican State Treasurer John Schroder struck this deal. The proposed amendment sailed through the legislature this summer with bipartisan support.

To learn more about what's on your 2020 ballot, check out our ballot guide.

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