With one of the most voluminous constitutions in the country, one might think we’ve tinkered with it enough. Nope, here are four more constitutional amendments scheduled for the October election. We’ve gotten more questions on these amendments than on any of the candidates, believe it or not.
Our wonderful governor, John Bel Edwards, likes to veto good bills. However, he can’t veto proposed constitutional amendments because, once passed in both chambers, they go straight to the voters. There are several bills that probably should have gone this route instead of being vetoed last time. For example, Les Farnum’s (R 4/10) additional canvass bill (which allows the Secretary of State to clean the voter rolls) has been vetoed thrice by JBE. Why? Well, because it would make it possible for the Secretary of State to remove dead people from the voter rolls, of course! Right now that practice is forbidden.
Another great bill, HB466 brought by Dodie Horton (R 9/10), would have forbidden teachers from discussing sex acts with children. Considering the number of public school educators who get picked up for child porn, carnal knowledge, or contributing to the delinquency of a minor, why the governor thought this was unnecessary is beyond me. Perhaps this is another that would have been better suited to being a constitutional amendment.
Instead of me continuing to chase a few bills around, let’s have a look at what’s on your ballot. Here’s the short list of our recommendations, followed by a little more thorough explanation.
- Yes – Outlaw Zuckerbucks in elections
- Yes – Forbid government from closing Churches
- Yes – Pay down debt faster
- No – Create a new property tax for Churches, pregnancy centers, and other non-profits.
Amendment #1 “Zuckerbucks”
Do you support an amendment to prohibit the use of funds, goods, or services from a foreign government or a nongovernmental source to conduct elections and election functions and duties unless the use is authorized by the secretary of state through policies established in accordance with law?
Before the pre-filing of bills, Blake Migeuz (R 9/10) had planned to bring this instrument as a regular bill. Realizing that it was likely to be subject of one of JBE’s vetoes, he instead decided to bring it as a constitutional amendment. Effectively, the amendment would outlaw the use of private money to fund elections. The inspiration for this was what the world witnessed during the 2020 elections. Mark Zuckerberg (among others) used their incredible wealth to fund election operations, but only in deeply partisan districts that favored his particular political bend.
It may be tempting to quote JBE and say this is a solution in search of a problem. However, two districts in Louisiana did take money from Zuckerberg’s foundations. Those were Orleans (of course) and Calcasieu (Lake Charles) of all places. Reasonable people understand that private foundations controlled by Mark Zuckerberg or the Koch Brothers should not be determining which partisan districts receive more election resources.
Thankfully, at least two-thirds of both Louisiana chambers still appear to qualify as reasonable, which is why this amendment is coming before voters now.
Amendment #2 – Keeping Churches open
Do you support an amendment to provide that the freedom of worship in a church or other place of worship is a fundamental right that is worthy of the highest order of protection?
If you think this is already covered in Louisiana’s constitution, you’d be right. It’s right there in Article I § 8. However, during Louisiana’s Covid debacle, JBE and local politicians did everything they could to shut down Churches. Pastor Tony Spell, of the City of Central here in Louisiana, has become famous for his push back against local governments who wanted to close his doors. Thankfully, his fight in the courts has been quite successful, although incredibly expensive.
This amendment was authored by Beth Mizell (R 8/10) in response to the government’s unchecked actions. It adds a little more nuance to the constitution’s existing language, “No law shall be enacted respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” You’ll remember that despite this language, the “power” exercised during 2020 to shut down churches was that of the state Fire Marshal. This new language should prevent this from ever happening again.
Amendment #3 – Pay down the debt!
Do you support an amendment to require that a minimum of twenty-five percent of any money designated as nonrecurring state revenue be applied toward the balance of the unfunded accrued liability of the state retirement systems?
Richard Nelson (R 3/10) brought this constitutional amendment to force the use of one-time-money to pay down the state’s debt. Oddly enough, this is the same Richard Nelson who voted (in the same session) to spend less on paying down the debt and more on pork projects (like buying band uniforms). His vote on SCR3 added an additional $2 BILLION in frivolous spending that could have otherwise gone to reduce the debt.
Hypocrisy aside, maybe this is a good amendment. If it would have prevented Nelson from voting the way he (and at least two-thirds of both chambers) did to blow out the budget, then let’s give it a try.
Amendment #4 – Create new tax on Churches, Pregnancy Clinics, and other non-profits
Do you support an amendment to deny a property tax exemption to a nonprofit corporation or association that owns residential property in such a state of disrepair that it endangers public health or safety?
How this got out of committee and across both chambers is a mystery to me. Perhaps it’s one of those “let the voters decide” kind of things. Regardless, if you think that Churches and ProLife pregnancy centers should be taxed, this one is for you. The word that many supporters of this unprecedented tax increase have honed in on is “disrepair.”
However, the first question any of us should have is, who gets to define “disrepair”? After all, right here in Lafayette, the City Council declared a piece of property to be “blight” to justify its being removed from its owner. While this was going on, we requested a copy of the official “blighted property list” from the city. You guessed it, the property they wanted to take away from someone was NOT on the list.
This has bad news written all over it. The fact that it was authored by pro-LGBT (anti-Church) Jason Hughes (D 1/10) should come as no surprise. After all, it was Hughes who voted against the bill blocking boys from undressing in the girls locker room.