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Tax Amendment Could Benefit EBR

Tax amendment could benefit EBR

• Advocate Capitol News Bureau
• Published: Oct 19, 2008 -Page: 1A -UPDATED: 12:05 a.m.

East Baton Rouge Parish stands to gain an additional $1.2 million a year from one of seven constitutional
amendments facing voters on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Proposed Amendment No. 4 would allow some parishes to keep more of the severance tax the state collects on
natural resources.

Parishes with an abundance of natural resources would especially benefit. Parishes in which the state collects little
severance tax revenue, such as Ascension, Orleans and West Baton Rouge, would not receive any additional

The amendment’s sponsor, state Rep. Rick Gallot, emphasized that the change would not affect voters’

“This is not a tax increase,” Gallot said. “Some people see tax and just automatically assume it’s an increase.”

The severance tax issue is one of the meatier proposed changes to the state constitution.

Voters also will be asked to:

• Impose term limits on members of a number of state boards and commissions.
• Keep a tax break intact for certain homeowners whose properties are seized by the government.
• Allow a replacement to be named for a legislator who is called to active duty by the military.
• Increase the amount of notice required to call the Legislature into session.
Louisiana adopted a new constitution in 1974. Since then, voters have approved 151 changes and rejected 63
proposed amendments. To amend the constitution, a majority of voters must agree to the change.

One of the amendments on the Nov. 4 ballot became timely when state Rep. Nick Lorusso — a member of the
Army Reserve — was called up to active duty. He likely will miss next year’s regular legislative session.

The Bureau of Governmental Research, or BGR, is opposed to several of the proposed constitutional
amendments. BGR’s complaints range from the changes being overly broad to them being insignificant.

Amendment 1

This change would impose term limits on members of a number of boards and commissions.

The affected members would be limited to three consecutive terms. After serving more than two and a half terms,
the member would have to sit out for two years before serving on any of the affected boards and commissions.

Current members with more than three consecutive terms under their belts would be able to complete their present

The change would apply to the Public Service Commission, State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education,
Board of Regents, University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors, LSU System Board of Supervisors,
Southern University Board of Supervisors,
Louisiana Community and Technical College System Board of Supervisors, Forestry Commission, State Civil
Service Commission and State Police Commission.

The amendment’s sponsor, state Sen. Willie Mount, said the term limits would create more opportunity for new
people to serve on boards and commissions.

“Term limits is working well in the Legislature,” said Mount, D-Lake Charles. “You’re getting people in with
good ideas, good energy.”

BGR took the position that the amendment is overly broad because of the curtailment on appointees moving from
one board to another. The research organization likened the prohibition to preventing a councilmember from
running for mayor.

Amendment 2

Currently, the governor or the Legislature can call a special session with five days’ notice. This amendment would
broaden the window to seven calendar days.

State. Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, said the amendment stems from questions that arose when Gov. Bobby Jindal
called the Legislature into session in March.

Jindal convened the Legislature on a Sunday with four weekdays’ notice rather than telling lawmakers five
business days ahead of time.

Seven calendar days would give the public more time to know what is happening at the State Capitol, Adley said.

“The public has a right to know what we’re doing here,” he said.

BGR dismissed the change as “too insignificant to warrant a constitutional amendment.”

Amendment 3

Two lawmakers are in the military — Lorusso and state Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, who is a member of
the U.S. Navy Reserve.

This amendment would allow the legislative leadership to name someone to fill in for a lawmaker who is called to
active duty for at least six months. The substitute, to be picked from a list submitted by the affected legislator,
could not be one of the lawmaker’s
immediate family members.

Lorusso said the issue was raised when he ran for office and his opponent warned voters that they could be left

“I don’t want to prohibit people in the reserves from running for &hellip office,” he said.

BGR said a legislator should simply resign if called to duty.

Amendment 4

This change would force the state to give parishes more of the money collected in severance taxes on natural

Currently, there is an $850,000 cap on the amount of severance tax revenue a parish can receive from the state.
The amendment would lift the ceiling to $1.85 million the first year and $2.85 million in the years after that. To
benefit fully, 20 percent of the severance taxes in a particular parish must equal the new cap.

Ascension Parish, for example, generates about $506,000 a year in severance taxes, not enough to get even the
East Baton Rouge Parish, on the other hand, generates about $10 million a year in severance taxes for the state.
Twenty percent of that is about $2 million, which the parish would start receiving in two years.

At least half of the additional revenue would have to be used for road projects.

The amendment also would direct up to $10 million a year to the conservation of the Atchafalaya Basin.

Amendment 5

This change would allow certain homeowners to transfer their property tax break to a new property if the
government seizes their home through expropriation.

The state freezes property tax assessments for some homeowners who are 65 or older, disabled or a military
widow. To qualify, homeowners cannot make more than $64,000 a year.

The amendment would allow those homeowners to keep their tax break under most circumstances if their property
is expropriated by the federal, state or local government. They would have to buy a new home within two years.

The amendment’s sponsor, state Rep. Harold Ritchie, said one of his constituents was concerned about losing the
tax break.

“It’s bad enough when you’re having your stuff expropriated,” said Ritchie, D-Franklinton.

Amendment 6

This amendment would impact expropriated property that is sold for private use.

In 2006, voters amended the constitution to give the owner at the time the property was seized — or their heir —
an exclusive opportunity to buy back the property when it is sold if it was expropriated less than 30 years ago.
This change would eliminate the need to publicly bid the property, as well as the requirement to offer the property

to the previous owner first if it was expropriated for health or safety reasons.
The amendment’s sponsor, state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, did not return a call for comment.
However, the amendment would assist the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority’s efforts to sell blighted

BGR said the amendment is a step in the right direction.

Amendment 7

This change would allow public employers to invest post-employment benefits other than pensions in stocks.

The state constitution has a general prohibition against investing public funds in equities.

State Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston and the amendment’s sponsor, said the change is targets health-care benefits
for future retirees.

“When you have future obligations, prudent people set aside funds to pay for it rather than just hoping and
gambling,” he said.

Downs said he wants to give public employers the opportunity for reasonable earnings on what they set aside to
pay benefits for future retirees.

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