By Nick BeJeaux
Everyone always makes such a big deal over candidates during elections that it’s easy to overlook the other stuff on the ballot, namely proposed amendments to state constitutions.
Voters mostly show up to the polls having no knowledge of these very important changes to the laws of the land and the fact that their oh-so-brief ballot descriptions might as well be written in Middle English doesn’t help the 20-something (or anyone, really) without a pre-law degree. To aid in your decision-making, we’ve created a rundown of all 14 amendments on the ballot – all in layman’s terms and with limited analysis. The first seven are in this week’s issue; the final seven in next week’s. Make up your own damn mind on what to vote for; we’re not about to tell you what to do.
The first amendment proposes the revision of the Louisiana Medical Assistance Trust Fund, which reimburses Medicaid fees to health care providers paying fees into the fund. Because it would be a constitutionally established fund, it would take another amendment to take funds away from it. If passed, it would also establish a minimum compensation rate for health providers that pay provider fees like nursing homes. Essentially, this vote is for whether or not this fund deserves constitutional protection, or if certain health care facilities require a minimum base rate for health care providers.
This amendment essentially reinforces the first by altering existing hospital funding methods. If supported by voters, it would set in motion several steps that will allow federal Medicaid dollars to flow into Louisiana hospitals by way of the newly created Hospital Stabilization Fund. Also, this amendment would terminate the state’s ability to make targeted cuts to hospital providers. If unsupported, the formulae used to fund hospitals will remain as they are.
If passed, this amendment would allow cities, parishes and law enforcement to outsource delinquent property tax collection and the sale of taxes and adjudicated property. The outsourced agent would be allowed to charge a fee, which would be capped by a later statute, for the collection of the delinquent taxes and/or sales of delinquent taxes or seized property. Currently, such outsourced tax collection fees are prohibited by law.
The fourth amendment on the ballot would grant the State Treasury permission to invest public funds into a Louisiana Transportation Infrastructure Bank, which apparently does not exist yet. This amendment does not create the bank; it only grants the treasury the ability to invest the funds when the bank is created. According to analysis from the Public Affairs Research Council, the funds in the bank would eventually go towards improvements of roads and other infrastructure that would decongest driving conditions across the state.
Since 1974, the mandatory retirement age for judges has been 70 years. This amendment would do away with that limitation, allowing judges to serve and run for election past the age of 70. If the amendment is defeated, the age limit will remain in place.
If approved, this amendment would raise the millage cap for police and fire protection in Orleans Parish from five to ten mills. If it fails, the cap will remain at five mills.
This amendment would give a bonus homestead exemption to veterans rated with 100 percent “unemployability” in parishes where a similar tax break has been approved by voters. Louisiana views disability levels and employability ratings as one and the same, while Veterans Affairs sees them as separate and assigns a percentage rating for each. Not passing this amendment would mean veterans who are rated 100 percent unemployable but less than 100 percent disabled would not receive the additional homestead exemption.