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Carlson: Sending a message to lawmakers

The next paragraph is the first of four proposed constitutional amendments that will appear on the October 24 ballot. It was proposed by Sen. Robert Adley; you may want to contact him for an explanation when you finish reading it …carlson-marty

“Do you support an amendment to rename the Budget Stabilization Fund to the Budget and Transportation Stabilization Trust; to authorize the mineral revenue base to be increased every five years; to create the Budget Stabilization Subfund as a subfund of the Trust, to be funded with mineral revenues until reaching a maximum balance of five hundred million dollars, to be appropriated and used when the state has a deficit; to create the Transportation Stabilization Subfund as a subfund in the Trust, to be funded with mineral revenues until reaching a maximum balance of five hundred million dollars, to be appropriated and used for planning, design, construction, and maintenance connected with the state highway program, with twenty percent dedicated for use by the Louisiana Intermodal Connector Program; and to provide for the interruption of deposits into the Budget Stabilization Subfund and the Transportation Trust Subfund the year that the state has a deficit and the following year with the resumption of deposit of mineral revenues in the Budget and Transportation Stabilization Trust thereafter?”

That’s one long sentence.

And it’s a primary example of why when the votes are tallied — consistently, there are fewer votes cast for proposed constitutional amendments than any other issue on the same ballot.

A couple of Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR) considerations to weigh when thinking about four proposed amendments on the October 24 ballot:

  • Typically, constitutional amendments are proposed to deal with emerging issues, authorize new programs/policies, ensure reforms aren’t easily undone

by future legislation, or seek protections for special interests.

  • But as more detail is added to the Constitution, more amendments may be

needed when conditions change or problems arise with earlier provisions.

  • Voters should evaluate each proposed amendment carefully and decide on

its merits – always with consideration as to whether the proposal belongs

in the Constitution – or if such proposal is better suited to statutory law.

Voters had enough of the legislature’s practice of amending the state’s constitution in 1970 when they defeated the entire slate of 53 proposed amendments on that year’s ballot.

When adopted, 1974 Louisiana Constitution totaled 35,000 words. Since then, it has been amended 175 times. According to PAR, Louisiana leads the nation the number of constitutions adopted, and in the frequency of adopting amendments.

And we’re looking to do it again on October 24 – or perhaps not.

While far shorter, the other three proposed amendments require study to understand the reason behind each proposition. But the problem occurs, particularly this year, that each of these propositions is based in complicated issues that aren’t easily reviewed over a cup of coffee in one sitting.

Then again, may be time that we instead consider sending a message to lawmakers that this practice of asking voters to support changes to the Louisiana Constitution be fewer, demonstrated to be absolutely necessary, and very infrequent. Perhaps this year’s election is a good time to send that message.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at martycarlson1218@gmail.com

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