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2008 Session Highlights

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Constitutional Amendments

  By: Tom Tyler
  (225) 342-6156

2008 REGULAR SESSION

In addition to selecting a new presidential on November 4, 2008, voters will be asked to approve a number of amendments to our state constitution involving a number of issues - the use of public funds, taxation and takings of property, extraordinary sessions, and term limitations for members serving on certain board and commissions. While no proposals were adopted in the first or second extraordinary sessions of 2008, the regular session provides a number of items that will be submitted to the voters.

LEGISLATORS

House Bill 183 by Representative Lorusso (Act 931) authorizes the legislature to provide for the appointment of a temporary successor for a member of the legislature who is unable to perform his legislative functions or duties due to being ordered to active duty in the armed service of the United States.

SEVERANCE TAXES

Each parish governing authority receives one-fifth of the severance tax on all natural resources other than sulphur, lignite, or timber severed or produced in the parish. The maximum amount that can be remitted to a governing authority cannot exceed $850,000 but this amount is adjusted each July first, beginning in 2008, by an amount equal to the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers. House Bill 420 by Representative Gallot (Act 932) sets a maximum amount that can be remitted to the parish governing authority, beginning July 1, 2009, at $2,850,000 and requires that at least 50% of the funds received be dedicated to the parish transportation fund.

In addition, Act 932 requires that beginning July 1, 2009, 50% of severance taxes on state lands in the on state lands in the Atchafalaya Basin each fiscal year, not exceeding $10 million/fiscal year, be remitted to the governing authorities of parishes within the Atchafalaya Basin in which the severance occurs to fund projects contained in the state or federal Basin master plans or an annual Basin plan developed by an Atchafalaya Basin Research and Promotion Board and such other advisory or approval boards within the Atchafalaya Basin Program, or to provide match for the Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System, Louisiana Project, as directed by the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. The bill also requires that 75% of these monies allocated in any one fiscal year are to be used for water management, water quality, or access projects, and the remaining 25% used to complete ongoing projects and for projects that are in accordance with the mission statement of the state master plan. The bill further prohibits use of these monies to pay salaries or operating costs of the program or the Department of Natural Resources. Act 932 defines a "water management project" to means any project that facilitates improvements to water quality, interior circulation, water access, or improvements to general ecosystem function by means of sediment reduction, removal, or diversion.

SPECIAL ASSESSMENT LEVELS ON PROPERTY

Owners of property may receive various special assessment levels on their property for purposes of computing ad valorem taxes if they meet certain requirements to qualify for the special assessment level - i.e. person who are age 65 or older; persons with military service connected disabilities; the spouse of a property owner who was killed while serving in the armed forces, is missing in action or is a prison of war for a period exceeding ninety days; and persons who are permanently totally disabled. House Bill 461 by Representative Richie (Act 933) provides that if the property subject the special assessment level is sold to or expropriated by the federal government, state government or expropriated by the state or any local governing authority or political subdivision then the special assessment level transfers to the new property provided the person entitled to the special assessment level remains the owner of the new property. House Bill 461 requires that the new property be acquired by the no later than 24 months after the expropriation or sale becomes final and funds have been disbursed and that the new property be similar in nature, have a fair market value which does not exceed 200% of the fair market value of the property sold or expropriated, and is intended to replace the property that was sold or expropriated.

USE OF PUBLIC FUNDS

Our constitution prohibits the loan, pledge, or donation of any funds, credit, property, or things of value of the state or of any political subdivision unless specifically excepted. House Bill 584 by Representative Downs (Act 934) provides an exception to this prohibition by allowing the investment in equities of monies of the state or a political subdivision which have been reserved to provide post-employment benefits other than pensions.

EXTRAORDINARY SESSIONS

Senate Bill 296 by Senator Adley (Act 937) changes from five to seven days the minimum time required within which to issue a proclamation calling the legislature into extraordinary session.

BOARDS & COMMISSIONS TERM LIMITS

The constitution creates the following boards and commissions and provides for the selection of members and the term of service on the board:

(a) Public Service Commission

(b) State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

(c) Board of Regents

(d) Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System

(e) LSU Board of Supervisors

(f) Southern University Board of Supervisors

(g) Board of Supervisors of Community and Technical Colleges

(h) State Civil Service Commission

(i) Forestry Commission

(j) State Police Commission

The constitution places no limitation on the number of consecutive terms a person can serve on each enumerated board or commission. Senate Bill 232 by Senator Mount (Act 935) imposes term limits identical to the limitation for members of the legislature. Act 935 provides that no person can serve on one of the boards or commissions listed above for more than two and one-half terms in three consecutive terms. The bill has a provision that this limitation does not apply to persons elected or appointed to the respective board or commission prior to the effective on this constitutional amendment except that the limitation does apply to any term of service beginning after such effective date.

In addition Act 935 provides that a person who has served as a member on any one or more of the boards or commissions listed above, for more than two and one-half terms in three consecutive terms combined is prohibited from serving as a member of any of the other boards or commissions listed above for a period of at least two years after completion of his or her consecutive terms of service.

RIGHT TO PROPERTY

In the area of a person's right to property our constitution provides that no property can be taken or damaged by the state or its political subdivisions except for a public purpose and with just compensation paid to the owner. In addition, property is not to be taken or damaged by the state or its political subdivisions (a) or predominate use by any private person or entity or (b) for transfer of ownership to any private person or entity. In applying this provision, our constitution limits what is meant by "public purpose" but includes as a "public purpose" the removal of or threat to public health or safety caused by the existing use or disuse of property.

The constitution provides a procedure for disposing of expropriated held for not more than 30 years and for disposing of such property held for more than 30 years from the date of expropriation and for disposing of expropriated property identified as not necessary for the public purpose for which it was expropriated, declaring it surplus property, and offering first refusal to the original owner or to the general public. Senate Bill 295 by Senator Murray (Act 936) provides that if the property is taken for the "public purpose" of removal of a threat to public health or safety caused by its existing use or disuse then the constitutional requirements involving 30 years, first refusal by the original owner prior to sale, and the procedures for declaring it surplus property do not apply when disposing of the property.

Senate Bill 54 by Senator Murray (pending House final passage) is identical to Act 936 except it is limited in application to New Orleans, Opelousas, and the parishes of East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Lafayette, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and St. Tammany.



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