This weekend, voters throughout Louisiana will visit polling places to pick a new state Treasurer as well as decide the fate of three proposed amendments to the state Constitution.

There also are elections on the ballot of local concern. New Orleans voters will choose a new mayor or will at least set the stage for a November runoff election. In northeastern Louisiana, a vacancy will be filled on the Second Circuit Court of Appeal. Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Sharon Marchman and Fifth Judicial District Court Judge James M. “Jimbo” Stephens are the candidates in the Court of Appeal race.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler predicted voter turnout will not top 15 percent statewide in Saturday’s election. That’s an abysmal figure, and it’s somewhat misleading. Voter turnout is expected to be much higher in New Orleans thanks to the mayor’s race there than in other parts of the state. That means if it were not for the municipal elections in the Crescent City, voter turnout as whole would be much lower than the 15 percent figure that Schedler projected.

Needless to say, it is our hope Schedler is wrong and voters turn out in droves on election day. The elections on Saturday’s ballot are just as important as elections for governor or for seats in the Legislature.

In any event, we are reprinting the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana’s (PAR) explanations on the proposed constitutional amendments as well as our recommendations on whether voters should approve the changes to the state Constitution. It should be noted we changed our position on Amendment 1 in light of additional research on the amendment.

Amendment 1:

A vote for the amendment would establish a property tax exemption for construction work in progress. A vote against it would leave the Constitution as it is, which provides for no exemption from tax assessments of construction work.

This amendment would codify what local tax assessors, for the most part, are already doing. However, it has become more common than not for tax assessors to begin assessing and taxing structures that are under construction in lieu of waiting to assess and tax structures after construction has been completed. The amendment would put the brakes on tax assessors assessing and taxing structures, or buildings, before construction has been completed. Accordingly, we recommend a vote FOR Amendment 1.

Amendment 2:

A vote for the amendment would give surviving spouses of volunteer firefighters, emergency medical responders, technicians and paramedics who died while on duty a full property tax exemption on their home. A vote against the amendment would leave existing ad valorem property tax exemptions in place.

Last year, voters approved a constitutional amendment that gave surviving spouses of National Guard members, state police, law enforcement or fire protection officers who died in the line of duty full exemption from property taxes on their home. This amendment extends the full exemption to volunteer firefighters and others. We recommend a vote FOR Amendment 2.

Amendment 3:

A vote for the amendment would establish a “Construction Subfund” within the state’s Transportation Trust Fund to contain any new fuel tax revenue, which could not be used for state employee benefits or wages. A vote against the amendment would continue to direct all revenue from fuel taxes, including any new fuel taxes, to the Transportation Trust Fund.

Given state government’s history of not acting entirely appropriately with tax revenues, we see this amendment as a proactive step toward stopping a state agency from possibly diverting tax dollars intended for a specific purpose. Accordingly, we recommend a vote FOR Amendment 3.

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