The Nov. 6 ballot contains some important propositions that voters across Louisiana must decide. The propositions include six proposed constitutional amendments and a parish-by-parish vote to authorize fantasy sports betting. Here are our recommendations.
To bar felons from public office: YES
Amendment 1 would prohibit nonpardoned felons from holding or seeking elective or appointive office for five years after completing their sentences. Voters in 1998 approved a constitutional amendment to prevent convicted, nonpardoned felons from seeking and holding public office for 15 years after they had completed a sentence. The Louisiana Supreme Court in 2016 voided that amendment on a technicality. This amendment corrects the technical glitch and imposes a five-year waiting period. We recommend voting YES on Amendment 1.
Unanimous jury verdicts: YES
Amendment 2 would require unanimous jury verdicts in all felony cases. According to the nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council (PAR), Amendment 2 "addresses an issue of historic proportions in that the current nonunanimous jury law is rooted in 19th-century cultural settings and sets the state apart from the rest of the nation." Louisiana is one of only two states that imprison people for long periods without a unanimous jury verdict — and our law traces its roots directly to Jim Crow-era practices of denying black citizens equal access to justice. In addition, convictions based on nonunanimous jury verdicts offend the notion of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which America long ago established as the basis for criminal convictions. Amendment 2 passed the Legislature overwhelmingly and with true bipartisan support. Liberals and conservatives, the state Democratic and Republican parties, along with many respected business, civic and religious leaders all support Amendment 2. We likewise urge our readers to vote YES on Amendment 2.
Donations among local governments: YES
Amendment 3 would allow local governments or other political subdivisions to donate equipment and personnel to each other under limited circumstances. Such donations between local governments (not the state) provide for great efficiency, according to PAR. For example, it would allow a fire district to borrow a bulldozer from a city, thereby saving the cost of buying a bulldozer. The constitution rightly prohibits donations of public property to private citizens or entities. We recommend voting YES on Amendment 3.
Protect Transportation Trust Fund: YES
Amendment 4 would protect Louisiana's Transportation Trust Fund from future "raids" by the governor and lawmakers by expressly prohibiting them from using trust fund money to fund "State Police for traffic control purposes." While we support all efforts to appropriately fund the State Police, money in the trust fund should finance Louisiana's many needed infrastructure improvements. We recommend voting YES on Amendment 4.
Tax exemptions for property held in trusts: YES
Louisiana's constitution expressly grants homestead exemptions to qualifying properties held in trust. However, a 2017 Attorney General's opinion raises questions about the application of the exemption in certain circumstances. Amendment 5 would clarify how the exemption applies to trusts — and the exemption would end upon the death of the original owners who set up the trusts. We recommend voting YES on Amendment 5.
Phase in large assessment increases: YES
In Louisiana, all property must be assessed at least once every four years. When that happens, property owners often see large — sometimes very large — increases in their property taxes. Amendment 6 would cushion that financial blow by imposing a four-year phase-in when reassessment of a residence covered by the homestead exemption is greater than 50 percent of the prior assessment. This phase-in would cease if the property is sold to another owner. The amendment would not apply to any increase in assessment resulting from construction or improvements. We recommend voting YES on Amendment 6.
Online fantasy sports betting: YES
Louisiana requires parish-by-parish votes on new forms of gambling or "gaming." This proposition asks voters in each parish if they want to legalize online fantasy sports betting, which is popular across the nation. According to PAR, fantasy sports games are legal in Louisiana if no wagering is involved.
Some websites (such as ESPN and Yahoo) allow people to sign up for fantasy sports for free and without awarding prizes for winning, while others charge entry fees and give out cash prizes. Louisiana criminalizes using the latter type of site, but the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the federal ban on sports betting violated the rights of states and thus opened sports betting for states wishing to legalize it.
While many oppose gambling in all its forms, this proposition merely recognizes what already is happening all across America — and across Louisiana. The state Gaming Control Board would regulate such activity, and we think Louisiana parishes where gaming already is allowed likewise should allow online fantasy sports betting. We recommend voting YES for fantasy sports betting.