Louisiana legislators proposed 67 constitutional amendments, but by the time the 2015 session ended, only four of them made it to the Oct. 24 election ballot for voter approval.
Two of the four deal with transportation funding issues.
“We had close to a dozen this past fall, so managing four is far more reasonable for both my office and for voters who have to read them, comprehend them and make a choice in favor or against,” Secretary of State Tom Schedler said Tuesday.
The Oct. 24 election features the governor’s race and other statewide elected offices as well as legislative races at the top of what undoubtedly will be a lengthy ballot. Schedler said ballot space will be at a premium.
“Four is plenty as far as we are concerned,” said Robert Scott, president of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana.
PAR has criticized the indiscriminate and continuing amendment of the Louisiana Constitution with changes better suited to be in state law.
Constitutional changes legislators proposed ran the gamut from those dealing with the state’s tax structure to higher education funding and from Medicaid expansion to creation of independent school districts.
Most never got anywhere as legislators focused on ways to close an estimated $1.6 billion budget gap for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
One proposition came close, languishing in a House-Senate conference committee. It would have eliminated a requirement for a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise college tuition and fees.
“I’m sure each constitutional amendment has its own story. They couldn’t agree or couldn’t focus on them,” Scott said.
Making it to the ballot are propositions related to road and bridge project funding. The state currently has a $12 billion backlog of infrastructure needs.
One measure would steer some state mineral revenue into a transportation account after Louisiana’s “rainy day fund” hits a certain level. The Legislature’s fiscal advisers estimate $21 million would flow into the transportation account over a five-year period, but none until fiscal year 2017-18.
Another measure would allow investment of public funds in a state infrastructure bank for transportation projects.
The other two proposals relate to matters that can be considered in a “fiscal only” legislative session and property taxes on Louisiana land owned by another state or out-of-state political subdivision.
The measures got a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate and now need a majority vote at the polls to become a part of the constitution.
“These particular four are all complicated and are going to be difficult to explain,” Scott said. “We are trying to get our arms around them ourselves so we can communicate them to the public.”
PAR publishes a voter guide commenting on the pros and cons of the propositions in advance of elections.
“None of these are going to have obvious effects on your average citizen,” Scott said.