In The News › EDITORIAL: Vote on amendments

Sep 28, 2006

Source: Times-Picayune

EDITORIAL: Vote on amendments

EDITORIAL: Vote on amendments
Thursday, September 28, 2006

This newspaper makes the following recommendations on constitutional amendments for Saturday’s ballot. Our recommendation to vote “for” Amendment 3 appeared in Wednesday’s editions.

AMENDMENT 1

For

This amendment changes the name of the Wetland Restoration and Coastal Fund to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund. There is more than a name change involved, though. The amendment would require the state to put revenues from future Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas production into this fund and provide for the money to be spent on coastal restoration and hurricane protection. Though it is still unclear how much the state will share in federal offshore revenues, the potential is great — and so are the needs. This is a crucial protection for such revenues.

AMENDMENT 2

For

This measure requires 20 percent of proceeds of future sales of the state’s tobacco settlement to go into the coastal restoration fund and allows the money to be used for restoration and hurricane protection. That is a wise use of the money.

AMENDMENT 4

For

The amendment sets a more reasonable standard for payment to landowners for property needed for construction or modification of hurricane protection projects. The compensation set by the amendment would mirror the fair-market-value threshold used by most other state and the federal government, which is appropriate.

AMENDMENT 5

Against

The amendment is an attempt to limit the state’s power to expropriate property. Specifically, the Legislature wanted to forbid the state to take an individual’s land for private development projects. The action is in response to the so-called Kelo ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which recognized the broad ability of governments to take property from one private owner for redevelopment by another. The protection of an individual’s property rights is important, but this amendment is problematic. The Bureau of Governmental Research, Council for a Better Louisiana and Public Affairs Research Council have raised valid concerns about the amendment’s complexity and potential for the unintended consequence of prohibiting the redevelopment of storm-ravaged South Louisiana. Critics also argue that there is no evidence of abuse of eminent domain laws in Louisiana and that the amendment is unnecessary. With the potential for thousands of blighted properties to fester in greater New Orleans post-Katrina, an amendment that could limit the expropriation and restoration or replacement of badly damaged buildings is ill advised.

AMENDMENT 6

Against

This amendment requires government to offer unused expropriated property back to the original owner before being allowed to transfer it to another owner. While that may sound reasonable, it potentially could tie up blighted property for years with little or no chance for redevelopment. As with the previous amendment, this provision could limit a community’s ability to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina or future disasters.

AMENDMENT 7

For

This proposition would allow up to 35 percent of the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly to be invested in equities. Other state trust funds already are allowed to make such investments and are able to get greater returns as a result.

AMENDMENT 8

For

This amendment allows residents whose homes are uninhabitable because of a hurricane or other governor-declared disaster to maintain their homestead exemption for a certain period of time while trying to rebuild. Given the vast number of people displaced by Katrina and the hardship that a devastating storm places on homeowners, this is an appropriate change.

AMENDMENT 9

Against

The aim of the amendment is to prevent the Legislature from passing along unfunded mandates to school systems, which would be a positive development. But the amendment is vague in some ways, and it is questionable whether the provision would do what it is purported to do.

AMENDMENT 10

For

This proposal would allow certain endowed funds at colleges and universities to be invested in stocks. As with Amendment 7, the change would track what already is allowed with some other state trust funds and would provide an opportunity for greater return on investment.

AMENDMENT 11

For

The amendment would allow property owned by a revocable trust to receive a homestead exemption. To qualify, the person establishing the trust would have to occupy the home. Property held by irrevocable trusts already can get a homestead exemption, and it makes sense to extend the provision to revocable trusts.

AMENDMENT 12

For

This is a routine measure to provide for election protocol to fill vacancies in the lieutenant governor’s office and for other statewide officials. Currently, a vacancy in the lieutenant governor post is filled by gubernatorial appointment. The amendment would require an election if a lieutenant governor leaves office with more than one year left in his or her term. As for other statewide offices, the amendment would require the governor to call a special election if there were no regularly scheduled election within a year of a vacancy.

AMENDMENT 13

For

The amendment in general increases the qualifications for judges in Louisiana. Requiring judges to have more years of experience in the law before being permitted to run a courtroom is a good idea.

Sep 28, 2006

Source: Times-Picayune

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