Since 1974 there have been 167 amendments to the Louisiana Constitution.
As local voters participating in the Nov. 6 early voting period over the next five days – 350 of them already as of yesterday afternoon – are discovering, there are nine constitutional amendments in addition to the presidential choices, term limits for elected school board members and several local millage proposals, depending on which ward a voter lives.
Sandra Thomas, Registrar of Voters for Morehouse Parish, said her office typically receives little advanced information on any constitutional amendments for local elections.
And they come frequently and unpredictably during any election.
The local office, she added, does not have the resources to photocopy the entirety of the proposals' language for the more than 20,000 registered voters; and the state is under no obligation to pay for public notification in local media outlets.
It takes a two-thirds majority vote in the La. Legislature to advance a constitutional amendment on local ballots. Those receiving majority vote across the state will be enacted.
Legislators generally vote on any proposal during their spring sessions.
The time period that falls between then and autumn elections does not appear to help the secretary of state's office help notify any amendments to communities ahead of voting.
That leaves many voters seeing the amendments and its abbreviated language for the first time when they step into the ballot box.
That has been the case this week.
“We do not get to see any of those kinds of amendments until we get our screen shots – which are what are on the absentee ballots – not too long before” the early voting period, Thomas said.
The discrepancy between the obligation of a local governing's body to publish the language in a bond election issue, for example, and what the state does not have to notify can be exemplified in the language in the last of current constitutional proposals, Act 876.
It proposes to voters that “no local or special law to create a security district shall be enacted unless notice of the intent to introduce the bill has been published on three separate days ...”
The other eight proposals are somewhat varied in topics. The following is a summary of the individual amendments. They can be read in their entirety on page 5 in this paper.
• Act 874 concerns the rights of gun owners. It adds language that strengthens the right to bear arms by requiring more scrutiny to any related bill constraining it; a proposed deletion to a part of the existing law would further eliminate new laws that would prohibit having a concealed weapon.
• Act 873 would add the Medicaid Trust Fund for the elderly to the list of funds protected in the constitution from being absorbed of cash whenever the state seeks more money to help balance the state budget.
Page 2 of 2 - • Act 872 offers three changes to the constitution expanding the number of allowable pre-filed bills related to the state's retirement system for its public system, in addition to the number of days it must be publicized before the introduction of the bill.
• Act 868 provides that the forfeiture of public retirement benefits shall apply only to persons employed, re-employed, or elected on or after Jan. 1, 2013, and only to retirement benefits earned on or after Jan. 1, 2013.
• Act 875 addresses an unresolved issue in the existing law concerning widows or widowers of disabled veterans: The proposal would let them receive the higher Homestead tax exemption on property up to $75,000.
• Act 870 empowers two at-large appointments each to civil service and state police commissions and the boards of regents and supervisors for the state's university systems.
• Act 871 proposes to establish a limited exemption from local property taxes for certain targeted non-manufacturing businesses in parishes and towns in a measure for communities to recruit new industries.
Finally, Act 869 is an amendment empowering the city of New Iberia to grant ad valorem tax exemption contracts for property annexed after Jan. 1, 2013.