Supreme Court Abortion

Anti-abortion protesters wait outside the Supreme Court for a decision, Monday, June 29, 2020 in Washington on the Louisiana case, Russo v. June Medical Services LLC. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) ORG XMIT: DCPS109

Updated 9:36 p.m.

Early returns show Louisiana voters Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment that would add anti-abortion language to the state Constitution and were well on their way to rejecting another proposal that would allow local governments to negotiate payments in lieu of property taxes paid by businesses.

Both plans were among seven constitutional amendments decided by voters. All seven required majority approval to take effect.

The abortion measure – Amendment 1 – collected 67% of the more than 1.3 million counted so far this evening from about 71% of the state's 3,934 precincts. Amendment 5, the business-oriented property tax change, was losing by about the same amount with only 38% support.

Amendment 1 was touted as a way to ensure that, if the landmark U. S. Supreme Court Roe v Wade ruling that legalized abortions is overturned, state residents would clearly be on recording opposing the procedure if the issue returns to individual states. The new wording is aimed at making clear that Louisiana opposes abortion or public funding for abortions.

Thirteen states have ruled that individual rights, such as privacy and due process, could be interpreted as protections for the pregnancy terminating procedure that has been legal for the past 47 years.

If Roe is overturned and the issue left for the states to decide, Amendment 1, if approved, would keep state judges from issuing similar rulings.

Millions of dollars was spent on both sides for Amendment 5, which concerns a break on local property taxes the state offers manufacturers that locate in Louisiana or expand their hiring. The idea is to give local governments more flexibility in hammering out financial deals with manufacturers.

Backers said the change would allow local leaders to hammer out agreements that allow a quick infusion of revenue for school districts or other services.

The amendment was backed by the Louisiana School Boards Association, the Police Jury Association of Louisiana and the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association.

Parish tax assessors criticized the proposal as did the community group Together Louisiana.

Opponents said the new rules would cripple long-term planning by local governments and allow corporations to duck taxes, hurting public services or forcing taxpayers to pay more.

The other five amendments are:

Amendment 2:

The proposal was passing in the early vote count.

The amendment was the culmination of years of negotiation between tax assessors and the oil & gas industry to resolve a long-standing dispute over how to calculate property taxes for the equipment on top of an energy find.

Under current rules, the value of the oil and natural gas cannot be used to impact the value of the property.

The change would allow the value of the product being pumped and sold to be included when the property is assessed.

Plaquemines Parish Assessor Belinda Hazel said assessors would consider revenue raised along with expenses and costs on oilfield equipment just as they would do with apartment buildings.

The change was backed by the Louisiana Assessors' Association, the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association and the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.

Amendment 3:

The amendment was passing in the early vote count.

The proposal would expand how the Legislature could use the state's rainy day fund – money set aside for revenue shortfalls that can only be used when a specific set of circumstances are met.

The amendment would widen that to include expenses for federally-declared disasters, such as hurricane recovery.

Like the current policy, doing so would require the support of two-thirds of the state House and Senate.

No more than one-third of the pot of money -- called the Budget Stabilization Fund -- could be used.

Amendment 4:

The proposal was failing in the early vote count.

Louisiana already has a lid on state spending – no more than revenues raised.

The amendment would tighten those restrictions by imposing a state spending of 5% compared with the previous year.

It would also require the support of two-thirds of the House and Senate to change the limit.

Backers said the new restriction would bring more predictability to Louisiana's annual budget process and set aside money for the next fiscal year.

Critics said it would unduly tie the hands of state lawmakers, and potentially hurt state services.

Amendment 6:

The proposal was passing in the early vote count.

The amendment would widen an existing homestead exemption property tax break.

Under current rules, property taxes paid by those 65 and older are frozen if their incomes do not exceed $77,030.

The amendment would raise that cap to $100,000, which would take effect in 2026 and be adjusted for inflation.

State Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, R-Metairie, sponsor of the proposal, said the change recognizes that people work longer today and that many couples have joint incomes.

Opponents said the state already has a generous property tax system and that expanding an exemption makes little sense.

Amendment 7:

The proposal was passing in the early vote count.

The proposal would set up a special account – called the Unclaimed Property Permanent Tax Fund – to handle the unclaimed property the state routinely collects, including payroll checks, royalties and deposits.

State Treasurer John Schroder and other backers said the new fund is needed because unclaimed property dollars are routinely and unfairly swept into the state general fund.

They say the money needs protection and that excess revenue could be invested and eventually generate $40 million per year for state services.

The issue sparked a dispute between Schroder and Gov. John Bel Edwards. The governor and others contend that paying claims has never been a problem, but the excess dollars have been an important addition to the state’s general fund.

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Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.