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Amendments Run the Gamut 

A total of nine proposed state constitutional amendments will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, along with the presidential race, congressional primaries and local initiatives and elections.

  The proposed amendments run the gamut from gun rights to retirement policies. No doubt some will inspire passionate arguments, while others will not cause so much as a ripple on the state's political waters.

  Here's an overview, listed in no particular order:

  • Senate Bill 303 provides that the right to keep and bear arms in Louisiana shall be deemed a "fundamental right" which shall not be infringed — and any restriction imposed on that right shall be subject to "strict scrutiny." First, let me disclose that I am a lifelong hunter and outdoorsman — but by no means do I qualify as a gun nut. That said, I suspect this one will generate the most heat and probably the least amount of light. Supporters will say it puts Louisiana first among states in protecting the rights of gun owners. They will be right, but opponents will note with equal accuracy that Louisiana already ranks at or near the top of that list — and anyone proposing to reduce gun owners' rights stands little chance of advancement in Louisiana. "Strict scrutiny" is the most demanding constitutional inquiry when "fundamental rights" are abridged, meaning it will be more difficult than ever to impose even reasonable restrictions on the sale, transport, carrying and use of firearms if this amendment passes.

  • In terms of arousing passions, House Bill 497 probably falls at the opposite end of the spectrum. It authorizes the granting of property tax exemption contracts by the City of New Iberia for property annexed by that municipality after Jan. 1, 2013. Because it affects a specific locality, it must pass statewide and in New Iberia.

  • Another yawner: House Bill 674 authorizes the granting of property tax exemption contracts for businesses located in parishes that have chosen to participate in a program established for the granting of such contracts. A note of caution on these last two: Because they include the words "ad valorem taxes" they could cause some to vote "no" just in case they involve tax increases, which they don't. The fate of technical proposals such as this probably will depend on free media coverage and good government groups getting the word out.

  • Speaking of property taxes, Senate Bill 337 extends the property tax exemption for certain disabled veterans to the spouses of such veterans if the veterans died before the enactment of the exemption. This one probably doesn't apply to very many folks, but it touches on two popular causes: veterans and tax exemptions.

  • Two proposals deal with retirement. House Bill 9 authorizes the forfeiture of public retirement benefits by any public servant who is convicted of a felony associated with and during his public service. That one will get lots of support, but it won't apply to anyone already convicted. Senate Bill 21 changes the pre-filing deadline for retirement bills — from 10 days to 45 days. Ho-hum.

  • Three proposals are very technical: House Bill 524 addresses membership on state boards and commissions that are based on congressional districts (we lost a district after the 2010 U.S. census); Senate Bill 82 protects money in the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly from being raided to balance the state budget; and Senate Bill 410 increases from two to three the number of times notices must be published before introducing local bills creating special crime prevention districts.

  Tuck this column away. Chances are you won't hear anything else about these proposals till November.


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