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Voters to face crowded ballot

By The Advocate, Capitol News Bureau

In addition to deciding the next president and congressmen, Louisiana voters on Tuesday will be asked to decide a crowded ballot of, locally, various tax propositions, and statewide, a variety of questions from gun control to term limits for school boards.

Across East Baton Rouge Parish, voters are being asked to renew a 10-year, 1.23-mill property tax for mosquito control. The tax would raise approximately $4.9 million a year for the next 10 years, according to Todd Walker, director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control.

Some voters will be asked whether to add a 10-year, annual $100 fee on each parcel in the Broadmoor Crime Prevention and Improvement District, generating an estimated $200,000 a year, to provide security patrols. The legislation defines the district as containing the Baton Rouge subdivisions of Broadmoor, East Broadmoor, North Broadmoor Circle, Broadmoor Oaks, Broadmoor Place, Broadmoor Terrace, Oak Hill, South Broadmoor, Clarice Browning Arnold Tract and Broadmoor Estates. The district is generally bounded by Florida Boulevard to the north, Airline Highway to the west, Old Hammond Highway to the south and Sharp Road to east.

St. George Fire Protection District No. 2 asks voters to renew a 10-year, 4-mill property tax, generating an estimated $4 million a year. The St. George District is an 83-square-mile stretch of East Baton Rouge Parish south of the Baton Rouge city limits to the parish’s southern border and along the West Baton Rouge Parish line to the west and the Livingston Parish line to the east. It houses eight fire stations with more than 170 employees.

Ascension Parish voters in Sales Tax District No. 2 — who are residents not living in Gonzales, Donaldsonville or Sorrento — are being asked whether to levy a half-cent sales tax for 25 years, generating an estimated $8 million a year, to build and improve roads and bridges.

Michael Songy, a consultant hired by the parish, said the focus will be on widening and intersection improvements along Airline Highway; intersection improvements along La. 22, La. 30, La. 73, La. 431 and several other key local corridor intersections; and the replacement or improvement of 10 bridges.

Livingston Parish voters are being asked to decide whether to continue to levy a parishwide 10-year, 5-mill property tax, for roads and bridges. Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor said that tax would produce about $2 million a year.

Also, the Parishwide Mosquito Abatement District has a 10-year, 3-mill property tax, generating an estimated $1.2 million a year, on the ballot.

The mosquito abatement millage is a parishwide property tax that would go into effect in January 2014 and last for 10 years. It would replace a $30-a-year tax on people and businesses with electricity service, said Jeanine Tessmer, head of the parish’s mosquito abatement program.

Voters in metro New Orleans will decide on a handful of propositions Tuesday, but most of the pre-election hubbub has been generated by a proposition to renew tolls on the Crescent City Connection. That decision will be made by voters in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes.

Crossing the bridge costs $1 or 40 cents with a toll tag.

Voters in all but two school districts statewide will decide individually whether to enact terms limits for local school board members.

Under current rules, panel members can serve indefinitely except in the Lafayette and Jefferson school districts, which already limit service.

Under Tuesday’s ballot measure, voters will have the option of limiting time to 12 consecutive years.

The limitations would take effect with elections held after Jan. 1, 2014.

Voters in districts that reject the plan would allow board members to continue to serve indefinitely.

Backers say the plan would help inject new ideas into school districts.

Opponents contend voters already have the option of replacing school board members through the ballot box.

Tuesday’s ballot also proposes nine amendments to the Louisiana Constitution, seeking changes on gun rights, pension revocation, property tax breaks and more.

Since it was rewritten in the mid-1970s, the state Constitution has been amended 167 times, with 239 amendments proposed.

The most attention-grabbing item on the ballot is Amendment 2, a “strict scrutiny” legal standard proposal that would require courts, when asked, to determine whether the state’s gun laws demonstrate “a compelling governmental interest” and are “narrowly defined.” If not, they could be thrown out as unconstitutional.

The National Rifle Association-pushed change won overwhelming legislative support during the 2012 Legislature. Supporters, including the Republican Party of Louisiana, say the change would protect gun rights regardless of who in the future is appointed to high court positions or elected to the Legislature.

Opponents include Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, the Council for a Better Louisiana, based in Baton Rouge, and the Bureau of Governmental Research, in New Orleans. They claim that more than 80 laws could come under court challenge, including those stopping possession of guns by felons and banning possession of firearms in bars, at parades, on college campuses and the like.

Amendment No. 8 would give the state Department of Economic Development another incentive to attract new businesses to Louisiana. The proposition allows for a 10-year break from most local property taxes would be expanded to include data service and distribution centers, corporate headquarters and other non-manufacturing businesses.

Amendment 1 would protect the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly from being raided in tough state fiscal times to help balance the budget.

Amendment 3 would provide for additional and earlier notice of legislation proposing changes to laws governing the state retirement systems.

Amendment 4 would allow widows of veterans with 100 percent service-related disability to continue received double homestead exemption for property taxes.

Amendment 5 would allow judges to order forfeiture of retirement benefits of a public employee convicted of crimes related to their government jobs or order any fines or restitution related to the crime be paid by the employee out of those funds.

Amendment 6 would allow the city of New Iberia to offer a limited tax exemption from municipal property taxes to encourage them to go along with the annexation.

Amendment 7 would change the makeup of six major state boards whose appointments have been based on membership from each of seven congressional districts. The state now has six congressional districts.

Amendment 9 would require publishing three times, instead of two, notice and details when legislative proposals are being made to create crime prevention districts.

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