Louisiana voters tend to put a lot of strange amendments in the state constitution. Although a constitution is supposed to contain only broad basic principles of law, our state constitution has long been a place to embed all sorts of language tailored to narrow special interests.
Consider the curious case of Amendment 5, which voters will consider on the Oct. 22 ballot. The amendment deals with the public sale of property in which the owner has been delinquent in paying taxes. Everywhere else in the state, the law stipulates that the tax collector can auction off the property to collect the delinquent taxes owed, starting with a minimum bid as required by state law.
New Orleans, by being defined as a city with a population of more than 450,000, has benefited from language within the constitution that grants the city a special exemption in sale of this kind of property. In New Orleans, if such property doesn’t sell in the first instance, it can be put up for sale again without a minimum bid.
New Orleans lost population after Hurricane Katrina, which means it no longer meets the threshold for using the exemption meant for it in the constitution’s language regarding sale of property in delinquent tax cases. Amendment 5 would identify New Orleans by name rather than through a population number in granting this exemption.
The Legislature routinely uses population thresholds to exempt certain communities from various state laws.
In many cases, these exemptions have been carved out for New Orleans.
We believe such exemptions should be considered as a matter of state law on a case-by-case basis, but they are best treated through state statute. We see no reason to place such exemptions in the state constitution.
For this reason, we urge voters to vote no on Amendment 5.