With the increasing popularity of early voting, especially in a high-turnout presidential election year, there is now an earlier deadline for conscientious voters who want to make informed decisions on local government propositions and amendments to the Louisiana Constitution.
Early voting begins Tuesday, and extends for a week, not counting Sunday.
And there are nine new amendments to the constitution to be voted on, as well as — in most parishes — a decision about whether to impose term limits on locally elected school boards.
Over the next few days, The Advocate will publish its editorial positions on these issues, but we agree with hard-pressed voters who might feel that they are in for a lot of work.
Some of the amendments we are likely to support, because they reflect needed adjustments in the constitution. The problem is that so many adjustments of such small matters are laid before voters.
As with The Advocate, the Council for a Better Louisiana also lays out a series of recommendations on the amendments. Look at http://www.cabl.org for CABL’s list.
With CABL, as well as the Public Affairs Research Council, we deplore that so many small-bore amendments are needed.
As CABL noted, “over the years our constitution has grown to include far too many provisions that restrict the Legislature from doing its job, often in rather routine areas that don’t rise to the level of constitutional issues. That means that if there’s a need to make even minor changes in these laws it requires a constitutional amendment passed by two-thirds of the Legislature and approved by voters.”
Several amendments do involve constitutional issues, such as the legal scrutiny that is required for restrictions on guns. But that is the exception rather than the rule.
Purely local matters, such as tax rates for property that is sought to be annexed by the city of New Iberia, too often show up on ballots for statewide consideration. The obvious reason for these amendments is that the constitution is “too restrictive,” as CABL said, of what the Legislature can do.
When legal notices are required for upcoming bills in the Legislature is the kind of housekeeping that should be decided by lawmakers without making voters go through the amendment process.
That leaves voters with homework that unnecessarily lengthens the ballot.
But why is the constitution too restrictive? It is because of a profound distrust of government, particularly when it comes to taxation. Want to protect the homestead exemption? Put it in the constitution. But when it comes time to make a minute change to help surviving family members of disabled veterans with homestead exemptions, another constitutional amendment comes up.
“Special interests frequently demand constitutional protection for favored programs to avoid future legislative interference, resulted in numerous revenue dedications and trust fund provisions,” PAR noted in its analysis of constitutional amendments. “The concept of the constitution as a relatively permanent statement of basic law fades with the adoption of many amendments.”
Louisiana government is wrapped in a long and unwieldy constitution that, since its relative brevity in 1974, has expanded to “protect” various particular interests.
So the voters get more homework, about issues that they mostly should not be bothered with.
We agree with CABL: “We would prefer that as these types of issues arise the Legislature, instead of just changing existing language and keeping unnecessarily restrictive provisions in the constitution, would weed some of them out permanently and place them in the purview of the Legislature where many of them belong.”