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Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, visits with Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, during a House session earlier this year.

In an odd twist, the sponsor of one of eight constitutional amendments voters will decide Nov. 8 has disavowed his own plan and hopes the measure is defeated.

Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, sponsored a proposal aimed at clarifying language in the state Constitution that bans slavery and limits "involuntary servitude" to lawful punishment meted out to prisoners.

Jordan said he initially wanted to remove both slavery and involuntary servitude from the Constitution, then tried to change it to allow the latter in cases of the "the administration of lawful justice."

But he said said that, during the legislative process and later, the wording of the ballot measure got twisted to the point that the plan could even be read to permit slavery.

"There was just a lot of confusion," Jordan said.

The Council for a Better Louisiana, which opposes the amendment, said backers tried to "thread the needle" by banning slavery and involuntary servitude while allowing inmate labor.

"This amendment is an example of why it is so important to get the language right when presenting constitutional amendments to voters," CABL said in its recommendations for the plans.

The issue is spelled out in Amendment No. 7.

Jordan said he is urging voters to oppose his proposal, and that he will the try to win approval in the Legislature for a second measure that can be submitted to voters at a later date.

If it passes next month, he said, he will still try to craft another amendment to clean up this year's version.

The plans on the Nov. 8 ballot were approved by the Legislature during the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions.

Three more are scheduled for the Dec. 10 election.

Here are the seven other proposals voters will decide:

Amendment 1:

Under current rules, the state limits to 35% the amount of stock market investments that can be made with the proceeds from seven trust funds.

The amendment would raise that cap to 65%.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerome  "Zee" Zeringue, R-Houma and sponsor of the plan, noted that the teachers' retirement fund and others are allowed to invest up to 65% of their money in stocks.

"It allows the state and the treasurer in invest in higher yield funds," Zeringue said.

The top revenue generators are the Louisiana Education Quality Trust Fund, which aids public schools and higher education, and the Millennium Trust, which was set up to handle proceeds from litigation with the tobacco industry.

Each of those funds have balances of $1.5 billion, according to the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana.

Critics note that stock market investments expose investors to greater risk.

CABL backs the amendment and said the treasurer's office has said that, if the plan wins voter approval, it will take a conservative approach to the state's stock market investments.

Amendment 2:

The proposal would provide a new, statewide property tax exemption to disabled veterans.

Under the plan, those with a 100% disability rating would pay no property taxes.

Those with disability ratings of 70%-99% would get up to a $120,000 exemption, up from the $75,000 exemption allowed now.

For those with ratings of 50%-69% the exemption would rise to $100,000.

"The goal is we are trying to make Louisiana the most veteran-friendly state in the nation," said Rep. Gerald "Beau" Beaullieu, R-New Iberia and sponsor of the proposal.

Beaullieu said he was asked to offer the plan by the Acadiana Veterans Alliance.

"They have earned it," he said of veterans. "This is our way to say thank you for the sacrifices they have made."

CABL, which took no position on the amendment, noted that it has often opposed changes that erode the local tax base no matter how well-intentioned.

Amendment 3:

Louisiana bans classified state and local workers from taking part in political activities.

The amendment would allow them to appear at campaign events  and in ads for "immediate" family members, which would include a parent, step-parent, grandparent, step-grandparents, spouse, spouse's parents and others.

Backers contend family members should be allowed to support relatives in their campaign bids.

Opponents say the state's history of political corruption makes the move risky.

The change would affect 51,000 state and other employees, according to PAR.

Amendment 4:

The proposal would allow water companies to trim a customer's bill because of damages not caused by the customer.

State rules now ban the practice.

Backers of the change said it makes no sense for customers to get stuck with water charges for problems they had no role in.

"If someone gets a $900 or $1,000 bill and it is not their fault the water board has no recourse," Rep. Jeremy LaCombe, D-Livonia and sponsor of the proposal, said during legislative debate earlier this year.

CABL opposes the proposal and said it represents a slippery slope.

The group said the new rules could, for example, pave the way for customers who fail to wrap their outside pipes during freezing weather to demand relief because of damages.

Amendment 5:

The proposal is aimed at giving taxing authorities more time to decide where to set property tax rates.

Under current rules, cities, libraries and other taxing bodies often trim rates to reflect increased revenue sparked by reassessment, which happens every four years.

But after a year or so those rates are sometimes raised to the maximum allowed rather than officials permanently losing that option.

The change would allow the top rates to remain a possibility for as long as voters authorized them, sometimes for 10 years.

"It gives them the comfort of saying they don't have to roll it forward or lose it," said Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco and legislative sponsor of the amendment.

"What I am trying to do with this constitutional amendment is to incentivize these taxing authorities to be better stewards," Smith said.

Voters often reject proposals they do not understand and Smith's plan is the most complicated on the ballot.

"This is going to be a tough one for them to understand," he said.

Amendment 6:

The amendment only applies to Orleans Parish.

It would limit property tax increases to 10% per year to soften the blow from rising values.

Rep. Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans, sponsor of the amendment, said skyrocketing assessments are threatening some longtime residents with the loss of their home because of a construction and renovation boom.

"For me you should not be in jeopardy of losing your home because developers came in all around you, renovated homes, rebuilt new ones and in some cases built very large homes," Willard said.

"That should not increase your property taxes where you can no longer afford it," he added.

The change would cap property tax hikes at 10% per year until it reaches full fair market value.

"This gives people time to prepare for increases in property taxes," Willard said. "And it gives them time to budget."

Critics say the new rules would lead to a wide array of gaps on how homes are assessed, and erode the local tax base.

While the change only applies to New Orleans it has to win state approval to take effect.

Amendment 8:

Louisiana freezes property tax rates for those who are permanently and totally disabled.

However, they have to have adjusted gross incomes of less than $100,000 per year, and recertify their status with the tax assessor each year.

The amendment would end that annual recertification rule.

"You are dealing with people who are totally and permanently disabled," said Rep. Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans and sponsor of the plan.

"The difference is with the disability you have to go down physically to the assessor's office and recertify," Willard said.

CABL, which opposes the amendment, noted that voters in 2014 rejected what amounts to the same proposal.

"It is not difficult to certify one's income on an annual basis," the group says.

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