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Four Amendments on Ballot 

When it comes to proposed constitutional amendments, Louisiana voters won't have to read as much this year. In 2006, voters had to decide a whopping 21 proposed amendments " the most ever for the state " but this year only four proposals made their way onto the ballot. Having fewer amendments should shorten the time voters spend in the booth, and it might actually give them time to read what they're voting on! Amendment One

Supplemental Pay Protection This amendment would constitutionally safeguard existing and future statutory supplemental pay levels for full-time local law enforcement officers and firefighters. The supplemental pay program has existed in Louisiana for decades, but it wasn't until 2002 that voters passed an amendment that constitutionally protected a minimum $300 monthly supplemental stipend for each full-time local police officer, constable, marshal, deputy sheriff and firefighter statewide.

The proposed amendment would expand on the 2002 measure by mandating that any increase in the monthly supplemental amount passed by the legislature could not later be reduced and would have to be fully funded regardless of the amount. The last legislative session increased supplemental pay to $425 per month, so that amount would be constitutionally protected from any reduction if this amendment passes. Otherwise, the 2002 amendment and its $300 minimum payment for all eligible local law enforcement officers and firefighters will remain in effect. Amendment Two

Supplemental Pay Expansion According to current state law, only full-time local law enforcement officers and firefighters are eligible for the supplemental pay program. The proposed amendment would expand it to include full-time, commissioned Port of New Orleans Harbor Police personnel and firefighters with the Port of New Orleans. Amendment Three

Funding Retirement Systems The proposed amendment would mandate that any increase in benefits for state retirement systems " state employees, teachers, state police and school employees " would require paying off the complete cost of the increase within 10 years. Currently, when benefits are raised for any of these retirement systems, a funding source does not have to be identified and the total amount of the increase can be amortized over 30 years. The advantage of the amendment is that the state will pay less interest on a shorter-term loan.

Critics contend the shorter time period means higher payments and that the legislature will be reluctant to agree to increases in benefits because of the 10-year limit. Amendment Four

Consigned Jewelry Exemption In 2006, voters adopted a constitutional amendment authorizing a property tax exemption for artwork placed on consignment with an art dealer. According to the 2006 amendment, artwork meant anything regarded as the material result of a creative endeavor including sculptures, glass works, paintings, drawings, signed and numbered posters, photographs, mixed media and collages " but not jewelry. The proposed amendment would add jewelry to the mix and allow it to qualify for the tax exemption.

Until the 2006 amendment was approved, Louisiana was the only state that levied a property tax on artwork placed on consignment with an art dealer for sale. However, the tax was not collected by any jurisdiction in the state except Orleans Parish. " David Winkler Schmit

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