Senator Peacock on Constitutional Amendments

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Barrow Peacock
by Barrow Peacock

Vote Button on FlagSelecting public officials isn’t the only choice voters will face Nov. 4. There are also 14 proposed amendments to the Louisiana Constitution to be voted on. The following is a summary of my opinions and the exact language that will appear on election ballots that day.

Amendment 1

Do you support an amendment to authorize the Legislature to create the Louisiana Medical Assistance Trust Fund for the payment of Medicaid reimbursement to the health care provider groups paying fees into the fund?

Vote Thumbs UpThis is Act 439 of the 2013 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This passed in the Senate with 34 yea votes, 4 nays and 1 absent. It passed in the House of Representatives with 96 yea votes, 6 nays and 3 absent. This bill is to help with Medicaid funding by collecting fees from nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities for people with developmental disabilities, prescriptions, medical transportation providers and health care premium assessments paid by Medicaid-enrolled managed care organizations, which will provide for additional federal funding. This also has to be approved by the federal government. I voted for it in the Legislature and plan on voting for it at the ballot box. This bill received support from the Louisiana Nursing Home Association and will be paid for by such facilities and not be passed on to patients or businesses.

Amendment 2

Do you support an amendment to create the Hospital Stabilization Fund to stabilize and protect Medicaid reimbursements for health care services by depositing assessments paid by hospitals, as authorized by the Legislature, into a fund to support Louisiana hospital reimbursement?

Vote Thumbs UpThis is Act 438 of the 2013 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This passed in the Senate with 33 yea votes, 5 nays and 1 absent. It passed in the House with 99 yea votes and 6 nays. This is an assessment that is going to be paid for by participating hospitals in Louisiana. The Louisiana Hospital Association was in favor of this amendment and its objective is to raise funds that will be used as a match for the Medicaid programs in Louisiana. The funds that hospitals pay are out of their earnings and will not be passed on to patients or businesses. The overall objective is to be able to enhance payments for Medicaid and uninsured care from the federal government. This plan has to be approved by the federal government and if approved will increase funding for Medicaid in Louisiana. I voted for it in the Legislature and plan on voting for it at the ballot box.

Amendment 3

Do you support an amendment allowing an authorized agent of a tax collector to assist in the tax sale process, including the sale of property for delinquent taxes, and that the fee charged by the authorized agent be included within the costs that the collector can recover in the tax sale?

Vote Thumbs DownThis is Act 871 of the 2014 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This passed in the Senate with 34 yea votes, 4 nays and 1 absent. It passed in the House with 80 yea votes, 20 nays and 5 absent. This is a constitutional amendment that will allow parishes and municipalities to hire a collector to handle the collection of property taxes and the sale of property for non-payment of property taxes. I voted against this constitutional amendment in the session and plan on voting against it at the ballot box. In my opinion, government is contracting out its responsibility to a third party and wanting to be able to charge a taxpayer for this fee. I believe it is the responsibility of the tax collectors, which are our sheriffs and our municipalities, to do their own collecting of taxes and to not contract that out to a third party and charge an additional fee on top of the taxes due. I strongly urge you to vote against this amendment. Our parishes and municipalities already have ways of having interest and penalties assessed for delinquent taxes and this does not need to be on top of those.

Amendment 4

Do you support an amendment to authorize the investment of public funds to capitalize a state infrastructure bank and the loan, pledge, guarantee or donation of public funds by a state infrastructure bank for eligible transportation projects?

Vote Thumbs UpThis is Act 873 of the 2014 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This passed in the Senate with 34 yea votes and 5 absents. It passed in the House with 95 yea votes, 0 nays and 9 absents. This is to allow the state to be able to loan and guarantee loans to municipalities for small transportation projects (road and bridge projects for municipalities and parishes). There are times when a municipality may have a project but not adequate funds to repair the project. This will allow them to borrow money from the infrastructure bank and have them pay it back to the infrastructure bank without going to the bond market and other financial methods. I voted for this in the Senate and plan on voting for it at the ballot box.

Amendment 5

Do you support an amendment to remove the constitutional requirement that a judge retire upon attaining the age of 70 or, if his 70th birthday occurs during his term, that he retire upon completion of that term?

Vote Thumbs DownThis is Act 875 of the 2014 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This passed in the Senate with 32 yea votes, 4 nays and 3 absent. It passed in the House with 73 yea votes, 19 nays and 13 absent. Currently in our constitution, a judge cannot stay in office beyond his or her 70th birthday unless the judge turns 70 while serving a term. In this case, the judge may serve out the remainder of his/her term. This constitutional amendment removes that language and allows a judge to stay in office regardless of age. There are plenty of people who are very capable at age 70 and older to hold public office. However, judges do not have term limits and because of the lack of term limits for judges in our state, I voted against this constitutional amendment and plan on voting against it at the ballot box. If we had term limits for judges, I would have voted for this constitutional amendment. Note that Bossier, Caddo and every Louisiana parish holding a local option election voted overwhelming in 2012 to put term limits on School Board members.

Amendment 6

Do you support an amendment to authorize the governing authority of Orleans Parish to increase the annual millage rate levied for fire and police protection, to require that the revenue from the fire and police millages be used for fire and police protection service enhancements and to require that any increase be approved by the voters of Orleans Parish?

Vote Thumbs UpThis is Act 870 of the 2014 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This passed in the Senate with 35 yea votes, 0 nays and 4 absent. It passed in the House with 89 yea votes, 0 nays and 16 absent. This is a constitutional amendment that deals with Orleans Parish only and because of current language in the constitution, must be approved by all voters in Louisiana to become effective. I would prefer not to have to make decisions that affect Orleans Parish, but because of the constitutional limits on a special tax millage this cannot be done without a vote of the whole state. I voted for this amendment and plan on voting for it at the ballot box. This will give citizens of Orleans Parish a choice to vote to raise or not raise property taxes for the support of fire and police protection. There is no arguing that New Orleans has had issues with crime, which needs to be resolved. The leadership of New Orleans supports this amendment. Current news reports state that 100 state police troopers are patrolling the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods. This is the responsibility of the citizens of New Orleans. New Orleans should not have a greater per capita state police presence than any other part of the state and the citizens of the rest of the state should not be subsidizing this police presence except during special events such as Mardi Gras, the Super Bowl or the Final Four, natural disasters or emergency situations. With the reasoning that the people of New Orleans will have the final say whether they increase taxes or not, I support this amendment.

Amendment 7

Do you support an amendment to provide that the homesteads of veterans with a service-connected disability rating of 100 percent unemployability or totally disabled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and their surviving spouses, shall be exempt from ad valorem taxation for up to $150,000.00, and that a parishwide vote shall not be required to implement this change in qualification for the exemption?

Vote Thumbs UpThis is Act 433 of the 2013 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This passed in the Senate with 35 yea votes, 0 nays and 4 absent. It passed in the House with 98 yea votes, 0 nays and 7 absent. This constitutional amendment is authored by Senator Robert Adley. It is an amendment that is very similar to one Louisianans voted on in previous years and is being done to clarify the additional $75,000 worth of homestead exemption for a veteran with a service connected disability rating of 100 percent, is unemployable or totally disabled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The language being added to the constitution is “unemployable or totally disabled” to clarify from the previous constitutional amendments dealing with this issue. Thus, since clarification is needed for this constitutional amendment to be voted on this year, I voted for it in the Senate and plan on voting for it at the ballot box. This will go into effect Jan. 1, 2015.

Amendment 8

Do you support an amendment to establish the Artificial Reef Development Fund in the state Treasury by depositing into the fund monies that have been received by the state Wildlife and Fisheries Department in the form of grants, donations or other assistance to provide funding for programs dedicated to managing an artificial reef system, the wild seafood certification program and inshore fisheries habitat enhancement projects?

Vote Thumbs UpThis is Act 434 of the 2013 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This passed in the Senate with 38 yeas, 0 nays and 1 absent. It passed in the House with 98 yea votes, 1 nay and 6 absent. This amendment is to establish the Artificial Reef Development Fund in the constitution which is to be managed by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The monies that will be put into this fund will be from grants, donations or other assistance that will help build and develop an artificial reef system and help our fishing, seafood and inshore fisheries habitat. Louisiana, being the Sportsman’s Paradise, this fits right in with this motto and allows for those people who want to put their funds toward building artificial reefs a vehicle to having this done. I voted for this in the Senate and plan on voting for this at the ballot box. No state dollars or taxpayer dollars will be used; it will all be grants or donated funds.

Amendment 9

Do you support an amendment to exclude owners who are permanently totally disabled from the requirement that they annually certify to the assessor the amount of their adjusted gross income in order to receive the Special Assessment Level on their residences for property tax purposes?

Vote Thumbs UpThis is Act 432 of the 2013 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This would become effective Jan. 1, 2015. This passed in the Senate with 35 yea votes, 0 nays and 4 absent. It passed in the House with 88 yea votes, 0 nays and 17 absent. This constitutional amendment will allow for someone who is totally disabled who has applied for and received a special assessment level on his home from having to certify annually after it has been established once. I voted yes during the session and plan on voting yes at the ballot box. I see no reason why someone who is permanently totally disabled should have to annually make this certification.

Amendment 10

Do you support an amendment providing for an 18-month redemption period in any parish other than Orleans for vacant property sold at tax sale that is blighted or abandoned? (Effective Jan. 1, 2015)

Vote Thumbs DownThis is Act 436 of the 2013 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This amendment is by Representative Patrick Williams. This passed in the Senate with 33 yea votes, 3 nays and 3 absent. It passed in the House with 90 yea votes, 0 nays and 15 absent. I voted against this amendment. I am absolutely opposed to this change from a three-year redemption period to an 18-month period for property to be able to be redeemed from a tax sale. Currently in state law, you have three years upon failure to pay your taxes and redeem your property after it is sold at a tax sale. This would reduce it to 18 months. I am very hesitant to allow government to take property from someone. Reducing from three years to 18 months is not an adequate amount of time when mistakes can happen such as tax notices getting lost in the mail. I make no excuse for someone not to pay their property taxes. They can pay them with penalties and interest, but there should be ample time for someone to redeem his or her property by paying the taxes and I think three years is a better safeguard than reducing it to 18 months, which technically will allow only one tax notice to go unnoticed versus three. Legally, in the state of Louisiana, the sheriff does not have to send tax notices. They will tell you they are doing you a favor to mail you a tax notice. It is better to err on side of the property owner over government taking property from someone in just 18 months. I know the City of Shreveport has a large amount of property that is considered blighted and abandoned. I would be willing to bet a majority has been that way more than three years and the city should be able to do what they need to do without reducing this time to 18 months.

Amendment 11

Do you support an amendment to change the maximum number of departments in the executive branch of state government from 20 to 21?

Vote Thumbs DownThis is Act 874 of the 2014 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This passed in the Senate with 34 yea votes, 3 nays and 2 absent. It passed in the House with 92 yea votes, 0 nays and 12 absent. Currently our constitution limits the number of departments to 20. This constitutional amendment will allow the state to increase the number of departments to 21, which is a growth of state government. The supporters of this amendment have well intentions of creating a department to focus on elderly affairs, which is currently being administered under the governor’s office. Although the need is there, an additional department, in my opinion, is not the answer. Rather, our state should focus on the needs of the elderly under the current structure and do a better job to assist our growing population of senior citizens. We have to be good stewards and not continue to allow our government to keep growing and not produce better results. I voted against this in the Senate and I will be voting against it at the ballot box because I see it as a growth in government, not solving a problem.

Amendment 12

Do you support an amendment to require that two members of the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission be electors from parishes north of Beauregard, Allen, Evangeline, Avoyelles and Pointe Coupee?

Vote Thumbs UpThis is Act 437 of the 2013 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This passed in the Senate with 37 yea votes, 1 nay and 1 absent. It passed in the House with 95 yea votes, 0 nays and 10 absent. This is an amendment that I absolutely support. It ensures that representation on the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission is from the northern parishes of our state. Currently three members of this board have to be from the coastal parishes and representatives of the commercial fishing and fur industry. The board has seven members on it and this will leave two to be appointed from the state at large. This constitutional amendment will ensure that two will be from North Louisiana. I voted for it and everybody in North Louisiana should vote for this constitutional amendment.

Amendment 13

Do you support an amendment to authorize the governing authority of the city of New Orleans to sell at a price fixed by the Legislature property located in the Lower Ninth Ward of the city of New Orleans?

Vote Thumbs UpThis is Act 872 of the 2014 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This passed in the Senate with 36 yea votes, 0 nays and 3 absent. It passed in the House with 98 yea votes, 0 nays and 6 absent. This is a constitutional amendment that is having to be done for New Orleans to allow the city to sell property in the Lower Ninth Ward. Our constitution currently prohibits them from selling of property below market value. I voted for this in the session so New Orleans could sell property under the guidelines set by the Legislature to allow blighted property in the Lower Ninth Ward to be placed back in commerce and added to the tax rolls. I would prefer not to have to vote on a non-statewide item, but according to our constitution, we have to do so in order for this to take place.

Amendment 14

Do you support an amendment to provide that legislation relative to tax rebates, tax incentives and tax abatements may not be introduced or considered by the Legislature in a regular session held in an even-numbered year?

Vote Thumbs UpThis is Act 435 of the 2013 Legislative session. Read its full text here.

This passed in the Senate with 36 yea votes, 0 nays and 3 absent. It passed in the House with 91 yea votes, 6 nays and 8 absent. This constitutional amendment is being proposed to add language that the Legislature may only address tax exemptions, exclusions, deductions, reductions, repeals or credits, or legislate with regard to the issuance of bonds in odd-numbered years / fiscal sessions. In the past several years, the terms rebates, incentives and abatements have been used in even number years / general sessions, which has been argued that those are the same things as tax credits. This amendment attempts to settle the debate whether or not rebates, incentives and abatements should be able to be done in even-numbered years /general sessions and only be allowed in odd-numbered / fiscal sessions years in sessions in the future. I voted for this and plan on voting for it at the ballot box.

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