There are five amendments proposed for the state's constitution on Saturday's ballot. You can read about each at the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana's website at la-par.org (not .com).

Much of what they deal with probably should just be handled by the Legislature and not be put into the constitution, but none seem particularly bad.

Amendment No. 1 adds a tax on tobacco products and steers the revenue to the TOPS college scholarship program. The tax goes away if not included here, though it's already in place so is not a "new" tax. Gov. Jindal has reportedly said he's voting "no" to this. It's a questionable effort, but who is against TOPS? And the tax is really a renewal.

I'm going to vote no to No. 1.

No. 2 requires at least 5 percent of state nonrecurring revenue be used to pay the huge unfunded liability among state retirement systems. Two years after its implementation, the amendment would require 10 percent of those same funds be applied.

We already have gripes about the lack of leeway on spending in the Legislature because of constitutionally protected funds, so this limits it more. But 5 and 10 percent of extra funds aren't a lot so I'm going to vote for No. 2.

No. 3 would eliminate the chance the Legislature might do something it's never done - dipping into a fund set up to pay medical malpractice claims, funded by those in the medical professions. Since it's not protected, it could be used by some future creative legislation, so this amendment locks the funds down only for the currently projected use.

I'm going to vote for No. 3.

No. 4 would provide for more flexibility for using the rainy-day fund called the Budget Stabilization Fund. The idea of the fund was to help the state through lean budget years, but the complaint is the money has to be paid back too quickly.

This amendment would allow more time to pay back funds "borrowed" from the rainy-day fund but doesn't reportedly reduce restrictions on its use. And should this not be approved, it will cause a problem for the current budget.

I'm going to vote for No. 4.

Amendment No. 5 seeks to lower the current population figure set for special rules on how New Orleans auctions off tax-delinquent properties. The current rule applied to cities with more than 450,000 population, which used to be only New Orleans. But after Katrina, New Orleans' population is less than that.

This amendment would identify New Orleans by name so it can continue its current practice.

My first inclination is to wonder why New Orleans can't just follow the same rules as other municipalities, but I don't feel I know enough about it,

I saw the Times-Picayune suggests vote "yes" on No. 5 so I think I will.

WILL CHAPMAN

PUBLISHER

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