OneRouge Community Check-In - Week 128
Join us this Friday for OneRouge Week #128 at 8:30am via Zoom. we will start Friday’s session with an overview of the Constitutional Amendments on the ballot this November and provide resource materials to share with your respective networks.
Alfreda Tillman Bester - Special Counsel for Human Services at SULC
Dr. Lisa Vosper - Associate Commissioner for Workforce Education and Training at Louisiana Board of Regents
Jan Moller - Executive Director at Louisiana Budget Project
Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!
Quick Links: Notes, Zoom Chat, Community Announcements
Pepper Roussel: For those of you who are joining us from places that are not your office or your house, Thank you for being here. Even on a Friday when you've got other things to do on this fine Friday morning, we are doing a little bit of double duty. So we've got an election that is coming up real soon. Casey wanted to make sure that we shared as much information as we could about the constitutional amendments that are going to be on the ballot. Part of that was asking for our friend, Dr. Lisa Vosper to come and chat about Constitutional Amendment one. But then we expanded it to ask. You know what? We're all friends. Nevermind. Alfreda Tillman Bester and Jan Moller have been invited to speak on the rest of the Constitutional amendments because there's more than just the one. And once we have had a chance to walk through the amendments, we are gonna be spending a little bit of time chatting about domestic violence, which is of course not exactly the most wonderful or exciting thing. However, the numbers in Baton Rouge over the last year doubled from the year before. We have a couple of folks who are gonna be talking with us about what those numbers mean and of course we are all completely against domestic violence, but we would like to understand how and why it persists, what it is that we can do in order to lessen these numbers. And also from a very humanistic perspective, recognizing that a lot of violence and be adverse behavior is generally exacerbated by stress. So I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying that until we start alleviating or at least remediating some of the stressors that create hostile environments, then we are going to continue to have rising numbers and not be able to stabilize. So with that said, good morning one rouge once again, and we will begin with Dr. Lisa Vosper chat on Constitutional amendment. Please introduce yourself however it is that you are showing up today.
Dr. Lisa Vosper: Thank you Pepper. I call her THE Pepper. Thank you so much for the opportunity this morning and to Casey. I don't see him in the Hollywood Squares and his absence. I wanted to just say this morning, thank you for letting us be here. Although the l I'm Dr. Lisa Vosper. I'm Associate Commissioner for Workforce at the Louisiana Board of Regions. And I see so many friends and partners in the squares that I'm excited to be here with you. I have with me a colleague from the Louisiana Board of Regions, Carrie Robison, who is the deputy commissioner. She has a new title to her unit and but it's research sponsored programs Excellence. Party people, whatever you wanna call it. I'll let her introduce herself because she will have to to pop off. But what I will tell you is, although the Board of Regents cannot legally lobby for any piece of legislation we can tell you why smart people will vote yes on constitutional amendment number one. Pepper said something that I'll just stress is that I'll just emphasize because stress is a factor. And as we have been through a global pandemic one of the things that we realized is that the way our agency and others have been positioned did not afford the Secretary of Treasurer to advocate during that pandemic as well for us, as it did for some other agencies, the state, et cetera. And so I'll invite Carrie in to share a little bit, share a little bit more light on Constitutional Amendment one and why it's important, particularly to the higher ed community but to all of us who want to advance our economy in the state.
Carrie Robison: Thanks so much, Lisa. I am Carrie Robison, Deputy Commissioner for Sponsored Programs at the Board of Regents. If any of you have ever heard of the Board of Regents Support Fund, which is a beneficiary of the Louisiana Education Quality Trust Fund, that's what I do. I run the LEQ, the BORSF on behalf of the Board of Regions, providing competitive awards and endowment matching to all of our institutions, public and private, across the state. And the reason that I'm here today is to talk about Constitutional amendment one. The reason we wanted to talk to you about this is the ballot language for CA1 is not entirely clear on what the amendment actually does. So what CA 1 does is it raises the investment. Insecurities for the treasurer from 35% to 65% in five trust funds. The five trust funds are the L E Q tf, which benefits higher ed and K-12 education. The Millennium Trust Fund, which I'm sure all of you know well which benefits K-12 education, the Medicaid trust fund, which helps some of our neediest citizens and two trust funds held by that for which wildlife and fisheries are the beneficiaries. And those trust funds provide resources for environmental restoration, species rehabilitation, and so on. So the reason that this amendment is important is over the last since the Great Recession over the last decade plus these constitutional trust funds that are capped at 35% in securities investments, have we have seen a decline in revenue of. At around 50% over the last decade. Plus. What that means practically is the purpose of these trust funds is to generate revenues for us to use for the specified purposes. In the Constitution, we have 50% less revenue than we did 10 years ago. This is extremely important because these trust funds seed really important priority work around the state, and we need all of the revenues that we can get. For example, the board of Regent Support Fund is one of the only discretionary funds for higher education. As we took budget cut after budget cut over the last decade, we be, we became the. To go if you needed say, equipment to maintain accreditation, you came to the Board of Regents Support Fund. But we had many fewer dollars to help with those kinds of things than we had in previous years. That what the treasurer will be able to do with the lift in the cap is not, it's not a mandate, it is not a requirement to invest at 65%. It simply provides flexibility for the treasurer to respond to market conditions, to make the best decisions on behalf of the funds. So that is what we are, what we're doing today is just educating you on the purposes of ca one and the reasons that a yes vote would be positive for the state.
Dr. Lisa Vosper: Thank you Carrie. And we are happy patients. I'm sorry. I was gonna just say thank, I wanted to thank Carrie because I know she has to pop off for another appointment, but I did want to get any quick questions answered and to let you know that we have shared with Casey just a one pager. So if you're pushing things out around this and ya, I don't know if we sent that to you. So good to see you friend, and I'll forward over to you all of our information. We do have some social media little that kind of give a summary, a one pager and a few other items that may help you as you're working with your constituent groups around this conversation. We will pause for 30 seconds to see if there were any burning questions before Carrie has to jump off.
Alfreda Tillman Bester: Pepper if I may? Alfreda Tillman Bester with Southern University Law Center. Special counsel for Human services. , I wanna thank Dr. Vosper and Ms. Robison for their their information this morning. However, I would like to just present just a a the other side of that as the person in my MBA program who missed the finance for everybody because I was trying to get them to help me to understand the stock market. And I will tell you that. 30 years after finishing my MBA program and being in business for ano, that length of time, I still don't understand the stock market and nobody has ever been able to explain it to me because what it is essentially is gambling. And what happens when when you interject politics into that is we get what we've been seeing recently from the Louisiana Treasurer's Office. So I'm very concerned about raising this amount from 35% up to 65% because as you will recall from the Great Recession and what happened back in 2008, there was a rebound, but that rebound did not necessarily impact the people who had invested in the way. That it did for the businesses and the the owners of certain stocks. So what happened was, if, let's just say that a person that we had, a hundred million dollars in the stock market and it crashed and we only had 50 million because we lost 50% we don't start to build back at the 100 million. We start to build back at the 50 million. And so if we get fif, if we're invested at 50 million at, even if it's at 10% per year, it will take a number of years for us to just get back to where we started. And so I think that placing 65% or up to 65% of our resources in the stock market with the volatility that is there I think that it puts us at even greater risk of of financial instability in Louisiana and, understand us wanting to to build on the investments that we make. But it's not as simple as just putting it there and knowing that it's going to to appreciate it. It will, it, There's that volatility that we all have to be concerned about. And I'll stop there cuz y'all know Jan's gonna help .
Pepper Roussel: Thank you ladies. Level setting, since we've had some folks who just joined. So for those of you who's, I see your your brows furrowed and wondering like how it is then, what it is that we're talking about that's political. We will, we've been talking about doing a sort of an education event where we share how it is that nonprofits can advocate for the things that they believe in with their missions to support without. Jeopardizing their C3 status in this moment. On this day, we are just sharing educational information. What does it look like? What does it cover? What does it do the outcomes and how it is that you vote or you talk with your people about it. That is entirely up to you. And this is generally the way that we would as a c3, which One Rouge isn't exactly, share information or to advocate for something. Do we have any questions? I haven't seen anything that's popped up in the chat directly.
Carrie Robison: I'd like to just make a comment about the risk. The risk is certainly the downside of increasing exposure in the markets. But I would say that since 2008, first, this amendment brings us in line with what all of the other statutory funds, as well as the retirement funds across the state. This, the 65% cap is the cap for all other funds, except for these five. These are the last five to be up. But I would also say that since 2010, we have gotten the trust funds in this, in constitutional amendment one have gotten about two fi 2.5% return on the investments in the investments. In just the L E Q tf, the Louisiana Education Trust Fund right now is 1.6 billion. We've gotten about 2.5% while the big retirement funds and the statutory funds have gotten six to 8% returns. So it's a serious imbalance. And that's what this is trying to correct. That doesn't mean that it doesn't come with risk, but it, that is, that's the reason for the amendment. Yeah.
Pepper Roussel: Very good. Very good. I still haven't seen any questions about this particular constitutional amendment, so thank you both of you. Dr. Lisa, I don't know if you're gonna be able to stay with us, but Carrie, I know you have to jump.
Dr. Lisa Vosper: Carrie does have to pop off. I will stay on and Dr. Alfreda, I will forward you if you share your email with me in the chat, just some additional information that might be helpful. Thank you for your comment.
Pepper Roussel: That means that it is time for us to shift and to talk a little bit more about the rest of the constitutional amendments. A bit of a down and dirty. If we can, we'll start with you and then we'll go into then we'll move to Jan Moller. Jan, if you don't mind allowing ladies to go first. Okay. And give us a basic overview of what the the Budget Project has come up with an explanation of what these are.
Alfreda Tillman Bester: I wanna read the language of it so that we can just know what it is, and I'll be very brief. Do you support an amendment to expand certain property tax exemptions for property on which the homestead exemption is claimed for certain veterans with disabilities? Y'all, it's really hard to oppose something that, that gives a benefit to those who have served our country. I have great reverence because of course my father was a military veteran and someone that I'm very proud of. I am concerned however, but that there is no income considerations on this particular amendment. And so some people who may not necessarily need it, who are veterans and who are disabled would benefit from it. And it carves out a special category for just veterans when there are a number of people who because of financial vulnerability should be allowed to have this exemption as well. So I'm just concerned that it cards out. That special category, and I think that we have quite a number of special categories and we need to do I think something that is more considerate of the entire population. And I'll defer, I'll go now to, to Jan if that's okay.
Jan Moller: Hi everybody, Jan Muller with the Louisiana Budget Project. I put in the chat the guide to and thank you Tristi for putting the par guide out there. I run the Louisiana Budget Project. We put out a guide this week to the eight amendments, all actually to the 11 amendments. There are eight amendments on the November ballot, another three amendments on the December 10th runoff ballot. And I also put a link to the recommendations from the Council for a Better Louisiana. All three organizations we have our own takes at the budget project. We do not make, recommend recommendations on any of these amendments, but we do provide some analysis. And again if, a lot of these are fairly complex, so I would urge people to read the guides cuz it's probably more than we can cover in the time that we have. Alfreda is right of course, on amendment two. There are three amendments on the ballot that deal with property taxes and property tax exemptions. And and again for very sympathetic populations. And so this says if you are a hundred percent totally disabled veteran then you do not owe property taxes. Which I think we can all understand. And they already get a break. I think the issue here is, of course Louisiana has. Local governments only have three ways of funding the services that citizens get. It can either be sales taxes, which in Louisiana are the highest in the country. Property taxes, which in Louisiana are some of the lowest in the country because we have given a lot of breaks to, to special groups including corporations and others. And then user fees. We can charge citizens direct fees for the services they use. So the money needs to come from somewhere. And so I think I'm not saying folks should vote yes or no, but we need to be aware that the revenue from property taxes is what pays for parks and police and school and sewers and schools and all of the services that make a community a community. So that's amendment two. Did you wanna move forward to number three?
Pepper Roussel: Yes, please. I will drop the language in the chat. So y'all can jump right into what it means.
Jan Moller: Okay. Do you want me to start, or Alfreda, do you want to go?
Alfreda Tillman Bester: I'm gonna defer to you this time, Jan, You go.
Jan Moller: Okay. So Amendment three is an interesting, It says it deals with classified civil service employees, So rank and file state employees. We have a lot of them in Baton Rouge, of course but also, teachers and firefighters and others who are member of the members of the civil service system. And if you're a civil servant, you know that part of the condition, you get a lot of protections as a civil servant. But you're also supposed to stay out of politics, including staying out of political ads and political events and making donations and so on. This amendment would make a, an exception for. For immediate family members of people seeking elective office. So if you're a a state employee and your wife decides to run for the legislature, you would be allowed to appear in political ads and go to rallies with her. The problem with this there, there's kind of two problems with this. Obviously it's understandable if you're running for office, that you would want your family members to be able to participate in a campaign. The problem is the definition of immediate family is extremely broad. There's about 21 different types of, relationships that qualify as immediate family. And the other thing to know about this is it's not the civil servants who have asked for this amendment. There aren't a lot of folks. In, in the civil service asking for the permission to participate in politics. It's the politicians who are asking for, for this exception. So again, this is about making an exception to the civil service protections that are in place. Alfreda, did you have anything to add on this?
Alfreda Tillman Bester: Ditto. We can move on. . I just want everybody to be aware of the pros and cons and the tradeoffs because of the protections. Because what if someone if the person that you're advocating for loses and you remain in the civil service, the thing is that you don't wanna be a target of the person that they ran against, even if that, even if you're working with your with your spouse or your close relative. The question I think as Jan was saying, is when you get to the number of categories of what they're calling close relatives it's no longer close relatives.
Jan Moller: And it's again, this is something that this is driven by elected officials, not not members of the civil service who are just of dying to get involved in political campaigns. I thought most of the civil servants I know are pretty happy that they're not allowed to participate. Amendment four. This is it's a surprise that this amendment is really even needed, but it involves the ability of local water authorities, which are considered government agencies in many parts of the state to waive water charges that come from damage to the water system that wasn't the customer's fault. Imagine there's a hurricane or a natural disaster and a tree falls on your water line and as a result, your water bill goes from $80 a month to five. . Right now the water company cannot waive those charges because the Constitution says a local government agency can't make a donation. This is an attempt to correct that. I will say our friends at CBL, the council for better Louisiana is against this amendment because they think it's going to be, a slippery slope and have politics intrude on on these local water boards who are gonna be under pressure to grant favors to people who aren't unhappy with their water bill. For me it makes perfect sense. Because a, again, it just doesn't make sense to me that if you get a bill that is high because of something that isn't your fault of some damage to some equipment it makes sense for the water company to be able to to waive those charges. Did you wanna add anything else Alfreda?
Alfreda Tillman Bester: Yeah, just that as a lawyer it horrifies us that something. Arcane is, this is even in our Constitution. It really should not and should never have been in the Constitution. But the, I have friends who are who work in municipalities and they need this flexibility, especially for vulnerable people. And as that's the work that I do is working with people who are vulnerable to because of income and socioeconomics. And so I, I think that they need this flexibility. I don't know how it can be a slippery slope when we're talking about water, but, which is, a necessity for everybody. But I think that we need to correct this, and I'm not advocating one way or the other. I'm just saying that it never should have been in the constitution in the first place.
Jan Moller: All right. So amendment five. This is a probably the most complex of the amendments and a little difficult to explain, and it took me a while to understand this myself. But this has to do with the timing of millage property tax millage roll forwards and roll backwards. Under the Constitution all property has to be reassessed every four years. So they come in and, they assess their values, the house, your house. Property taxes are charged by millage rates. And so if the value of your house goes up that millage has to be adjusted so that the tax raises the same amount of money, but communities parish councils or library boards or whoever's it benefits from that tax. Can elect to roll forward that millage back to the original millage after a property reassessment. So in essence, raise your property taxes when the value of your property goes up. And they have to do it before the next assessment. So what typically happens is a lot of government bodies will just automatically roll forward that millage because if they don't roll forward before the next assessment, then the lower millage rate takes effect. What this change would do is to say local governments could wait. They wouldn't have to do it before the next assessment. They could do it anytime before the millage expires. The bottom line on this. And this is something that has a support of a lot of local authorities, the Louisiana Municipal Association and others, is that it gives local taxing authorities a little bit more time after a reassessment to decide whether they need to do that, a millage role forward, whether they need to raise the taxes or whether they can leave those tax rates, or whether they can leave the lower millages in place and raise the same amount of money. So this is really it doesn't necessarily raise or lower anybody's property taxes. It just gives a little bit more flexibility. And time for local governments to consider these issues after property is reassessed. Which is probably a good thing cuz these things should be decided on a local level. Every community is different and their needs are different. Again, this is probably a good thing. Again, it's a complicated thing, property I deal with tax policy for a living and property taxes can make my eyes roll. So I forgive anybody who feels that way. Alfreda, is there anything else that you wanted to add to this?
Alfreda Tillman Bester: No, you covered that one really well, Jan it was I think probably the most complicated of all of them on the ballot.
Jan Moller: Yeah. Amendment six is one of those weirds. Once in a while you have an amendment that only applies to one parish. And it's usually Orleans's Parish. And this is one of those So this is has to do with property tax assessments in Orleans Parish. So it only applies to citizens of New Orleans, but the rest of the state has to vote on it. And essentially what it does if you paid attention to what's going on in New Orleans property values are rising very quickly there. And this has affected and partly because there's a lot of short term rentals and kind of investors coming in and so there's been a lot of gentrification in certain neighborhoods, and that can mean that property value, property taxes go up very quickly for some long term residence. Yeah. And this essentially says that no matter how fast your property taxes, your property values go up, the property taxes could only go up by 10% a year until it gets to the full new assessed value. And The the upside of this is of course, it protects people who may have been in their home for a long time, who may have long low personal incomes and who need to be cushioned from the effect of higher property tax increase. The downside of this is twofold. Frankly, number one, it means less revenue for local governments. That's what happens when you put these property tax restrictions in. And it's also doesn't help renters one iota because it only applies to properties that get the homestead exemption. And so if you're a renter every time those property taxes goes up the landlord is probably going to raise your rent to compensate for the higher taxes. So in essence, we're pushing the burden of paying for government from homeowners to renters, and there's also no income restrictions. So this helps people in a mansions on St. Charles Avenue as much as it helps. Somebody who may be living in a a lower income area of New Orleans. This is something that, that housing ad advocates in New Orleans are really in favor of. But but again there's, as with all of these property tax amendments it's their upsides and downsides. Dr. Bester or anybody else,
Alfreda Tillman Bester: Just that, if the property value increases, we know that there would be a minimum of 10% increase. Even if the value went up to a hundred percent, it would be at least a 10% increase. So that is increased revenue. I think that just to make sure that people who, for instance, are on a fixed income are not unnecessarily burdened. And as a surprise being burdened. I think that this one is, it has its pros and cons, just like all of them, but it doesn't mean less revenue. It means not more than a 10% increase in revenue for people who have a great appreciation on their val their property values.
Jan Moller: Yeah, that's right. Should we go on to number seven? All right. Number seven is probably the most controversial of all the amendments, the one that's gotten the most publicity and another really complex amendment. And I wish Representative Edmund Jordan was on here to talk about it because he is the person who sponsored this amendment in the legislature. And if you've been following the news, you may know that he is planning to vote against his own amendment on November 8th. Because of some drafting error errors that were made. So let's start with this. This has to do with getting slavery language out of the state constitution which has been there for a long time, and which mirrors the language in the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution. A couple of things to know about this. Number one, I don't think this will change in practical terms anything at all. I think and number two there are a lot of people much smarter than myself, and I am not a lawyer, and I don't even want to play one on Zoom. Who differ on how to interpret the language of this amendment? What it says is, I think it's in the chat, Do you support an amendment to prohibit the use of involuntary servitude, except as it applies to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice. And what this means is, obviously our constitution forbids slavery, but it had this involuntary servitude clause. To kind allow for prison labor which has been and there are a lot of folks who out there who I think rightfully want to reform the prison labor system in Louisiana and elsewhere where, we have a lot of low cost or no cost prison labor out there. The problem is the original version of the amendment would've just prohibited involuntary servitude. But then the legislature put in this lawful administration of criminal justice language. And it was only after the amendment passed that lawyers started asking whether or not this actually might expand the the definition of of prison labor and make it easier to have prison. And and make those reforms. And so that's why Representative Jordan, the sponsor said, Look, this has been too confusing. This was a drafting error during the process, and I want everybody to vote no so we can come back next year and have a more full debate on this. On the other side of this are, my friends at the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and others in the civil rights community who say, Look, this probably isn't gonna have any actual real world effect on prison labor. But it has a lot of symbolic weight. And if we vote no on this amendment, it could send a message at Louisiana is endorsing slavery and involuntary serv. So because the original intent of this amendment was, very clear and noble. And this is really about, there are those who say this is really about the message that we want to send to to the rest of the country when it comes to Louisiana's attitudes on slavery and involuntary servitude. I'll stop there because this is one that's very difficult, for us. And I would love to open it up for discussion. And I know others have probably much more insight than I can offer
Alfreda Tillman Bester: Jan I will add that I, we just did a exception to the 13th Amendment Forum at Southern University Law Center on October 13th. And Representative Jordan was going to be on our panel, but unfortunately he was in court on that day. But Edmond. Representative Jordan and I talked about this extensively, and what he has said is that whether he, that he will not actively oppose this amendment because of the legislative intent and because of the passions that are surrounding it. But whatever happens, whether it passes or if it doesn't pass, that he will be attempting in the upcoming legislative session to remove that language that maintains the exception or possibly maintains the exception. But one of the things that people should know about these amendments and as the way that they app appear on the ballot, they often, no, most of the time they do not reflect the language of the actual act that put them on the ballot. This one has that language that puts the exception there. That “gums up the works”. That's a real legal term. Gums up the works . But advocates that I've spoken to are very adamant that because of the law is cumulative, right? We build on it from one, one one interaction with the legal system to the next. That if we have this in place, we can always go back and try and amend that offending language out. The challenge is that if we don't have something there, that we have to start all the way over again. And that we have nothing on the books. But if we, if this case, if this, if a case were to go before the. With this language, this offending language in it, because it is so broad, it is very likely that it would not be enforced by the courts. As I understand the courts prior to the Dobbs decision, I'm not certain about precedents anymore. I can't really predict what will happen in a court. There you are. Amendment seven. Kaitlin Joshua from the Power Coalition. Kait, did you have something that you wanted to add about that?
Kaitlyn Joshua: No, I think you covered it perfectly. I would just say we're continuing to knock on doors, y'all, and tell folks Yes, I'm. Of course we can get in the weeds about it. We can talk about how it can get fixed that sec next session, which it can still be further carved out next session. So we don't see the harm in being super pro black and just voting yes on seven. And that is what we were telling folks that the doors, phone calls and text messages that we're not changing our position on that. We also did speak with Emma Jordan, which I feel like everybody on this call probably did too. I actually sat behind him at the southern game last weekend and we had a lot of a discussion about it and I even asked would it be possible if like he came out and said it was okay for folks to vote yes on seven, that it's not harmful to do and so hopefully Ashley Shelton in the power post from a follow up with him and maybe we can have something in these last couple days of the election so that folks feel comfortable voting yes on it still.
Pepper Roussel: Thanks Kait. Reverend Anderson, I know you're here somewhere. You were talking in the chat a minute again. All right. Here you go. Oh, there she is.
Reverend Anderson: Oh, good morning. It's been a crazy morning. Thank you. And while I'm not trying to tell anyone how to let me be very clear. I am definitively in favor of this amendment because I sit in the court every day and I have said on multiple occasions, including on this particular venue, Louisiana is a slave state. You can't expand what you already are. That's like being a little bit pregnant and the legislation itself, for which I was there for every part of that hearing. And if you go to the Yes on seven Facebook page, the actual hearing. Is on there and you can look at it and make that decision for yourself. But I would say three things. First of all, everybody should go vote. I don't care if you vote for it or against it, please don't stay home. But the second issue is that it's foundation. It may sound symbolic unless you are one of the millions of families that are impacted by mass incarceration in both this state and this country. And then those words are not symbolic. We are literally three fifths when we interact with the criminal justice system. And it doesn't matter what level you're at. We're not talking about Angola, we're talking about from arrest, We're talking about at the misdemeanor level. We're talking about in the district level, we're talking about at the appellate level, we're talking about now at the Supreme Court level, meaning that bodily autonomy. which is what slavery is also about who controls your body. Slavery means that you are a piece of property and in the Caral system, you are a piece of property. So the language in the actual legislation that passed, the first section that was amended says slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited, Period. The second subsection and attorney buster and all of the most brilliant people in the world are much better at nuance in those things was directly proposed and came from the Utah legislation, which is on the looks today. And that was proposed by Representative Nelson. And so what I will say to people is, please go look at the hearing itself. Don't take my word for it. Don't take anybody else's word for it, but there are five other states. that have these exception amendments trying to work to the goal, to eventually getting the 13th amendment. That in the exception out, and that is a critical, and I would love to see Louisiana take the lead. And the other piece I want to say is that for those folk who aren't in the weeds on policy, next session is a fiscal session. Nothing is going to happen on this next session. And that's just a fact of life. There's just too many other priorities that are going on. So that's my input. And again I want to end where I started, whether you vote for it or against it, please make sure you vote and vote all the way down ballot. That's my real prayer.
Alfreda Tillman Bester: Just one, one thing. Pepper in response to what Reverend Anderson said about the about the upcoming fiscal session, although it is a fiscal session, each legislator does have the opportunity to put four, five bills, and representative Jordan has said that one of his five would be this particular issue. So we do have the opportunity to do it. But I will also note the level of disrespect that we saw from the leadership in the legislature this past year with this bill and some others. And so that is of concern, but as Reverend Anderson said, we have to vote and we have to vote for people who are respectful of the constituency. Now, I'll stop. All right, so I've got a question.
Pepper Roussel: So, before we move on to the last constitutional amendment that's gonna be on the ballot coming up in November, there's a question for clarification or a couple of questions for clarification. What does a no vote mean? Does it mean that it leaves a language in the Constitution and keeps prison labor in place? What does as oppo conversely, does a yes vote mean that it takes a language out? Oh, Jan's, just thank you. Jan. Does a yes vote take the language out, but least prison labor alone. Jan, you just answered that seconds ago while I was talking in the chat.
Jan Moller: Yeah, it changes the language and I think that's where the, again I echo everything. Reverend Anderson said, and I think there, there's no doubt about Yeah. The intent of this and the intent of the author and the need to reform our carceral system. And the original version of this amendment just banned slavery and involuntary servitude. And then they the legislators got concerned because they wanted to make sure they could still have unpaid prison labor. And so they just changed the la Right now, the constitution banned slavery and involuntary servitude except for the punishment of a crime. And it's, and so they change that language and replaces it with, except as it applies to the lawful administration of criminal justice. And it's, the language is different but similar. And and that's where, a non-lawyer like myself I have no idea what the practical effects of that is. Yep.
Reverend Anderson: And if I can just weigh in that this particular amendment is not going to change prison labor. And I think everybody needs to be very clear on that. It's not going to do that when Decarcerate Louisiana, who was the authors and the warriors and the champions pulling this legislation together not just this year, but last year as well. The goal was to end the exception and to address prison labor in a predominantly Republican legislature that went nowhere in 2020, and, I'm sorry, in 2021. And in 2022, Representative Nelson made the request to have the language changed to mirror the Utah legislation. So that's where the language came from, is that this is a current language that's in the Utah constitution. And so even though the ballot initiative language is, is a hot mess, the actual legislative legislation, leg legislation says that slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited. Period. And then there's a subsection that says nothing about this. And I'm trying to remember the exact language, but nothing about this would interfere with the otherwise lawful criminal justice or whatever that is. So that's where that is. So the short answer is it does not change prison labor. Prison labor is an issue being fought out in the courts. It's being fought out in the legislative sessions. It's being fall out on all sorts of fronts, and it'll continue to be probably for quite frankly generations. This legislation really is about, as a state, do we wanna say no? We are not a slave state, at least by codifying it in our constitution. So in, in the sense that words have power, that is a powerful statement to make in terms of does it get somebody from making 2 cents an hour? No, it doesn't.
Alfreda Tillman Bester: Just that convict leasing is just so abhorrent. Because it is literally selling the labor of someone else and benefiting from their work and their bodies at No, you're, we're at literally literal. Un enriching unjustly, enriching the state on the labor of people who may have made mistakes. But does that make what the state is doing? It does not. So I answered the question for you, . Thank you. I appreciate that. Alright Marcella, I see your question in the chat about resources. I wanna circle back to that after we finish the last one. Basement of shame. That's vivid, right? If we're good on this more or less, we'll go to Constitutional Amendment number eight, last one on the ballot for November.
Jan Moller: All right. This one is a lot easier. Probably the easiest one of all of them. This applies to homeowners who are permanently and totally disabled not just a disabled veteran, but anyone who has a permanent and total disability Right now the Constitution allows you to have a property tax freeze. We already have the homestead exemption. But if you are declared totally disabled, then your property taxes are frozen, so they can never go up on your primary residence. And, but there is a if you are subject to this property tax freeze, then you have to certify. It only applies if you have annual income of less than a hundred thousand dollars a year. And so every year, in order to get this freeze, you have to re-certify to the state that you still make less than a hundred thousand dollars a year. Now, obviously, if you're permanently in totally disabled, chances are Extremely high that your income doesn't change over the course of a year. So this becomes just a kind of a paperwork burden, maybe not a huge paperwork burden, but a burden nonetheless to to re-certify your income every year to keep getting that property tax break. And this simply takes away the requirement that you have to recertify your income every year. So all we're doing is lightning the paperwork burden a little bit for people who are permanently and totally disabled and own their homes and wanna stay in their primary residence, and it just freezes their property taxes in place. And again, that phrase is already in place, so that's all that amendment does. And Manny, I see your question, the chat. Could friendly amendments be made to the amendment? If this amendment passes, then the Constitution can always be changed. But the process for changing the Constitution, unfortunately in Louisiana we don't have a ballot measure process, so citizens cannot put anything on the ballot the way they can in other states. If they could, we probably have a higher minimum wage in Louisiana and a number of other strong policies. But the process for amending the Constitution, our constitution is overly complex. And lord it up with a lot of different amendments. And so if you want to change something in the Constitution, you have to, put it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. And and that requires, a bill and two-thirds support from the State House and Senate. And there are, several committees they has to go through two committees on each side. So it's a pretty complex process. And so yeah, if this passes, if you want to change it, you're gonna have to go to the legislature with the bill and find an author and go through that whole rigamarole and then get 50% of the people who vote to agree with you.
Manny Patole: So just to clarify, so if this was out there, there wouldn't be any sort of debate where they, Okay. It's either re-certify or not re-certified, but there, there couldn't be any conversation like, all right, we can't not re-certify, so can we make it three years or five years when people have to come by? You would actually have to put a full nother thing out there that says,
Jan Moller: Okay, you're right. If you say so so if this passes and I were declared permanently and totally disabled. The day after it passes, then I would go to the, I would go to my assessor and I would certify my income. And if I qualify, then my property taxes stay the same. If I lived to be a hundred. And if you Manny decided, you want me to re-certify every three years, you'd have to go get the constitution changed.
Alfreda Tillman Bester: We can move on.
Jan Moller: We're kind running outta time but there's three more amendments on the December ballot. If you wanna read about them, they're, in our guide and the PAR Guide and the others.
Pepper Roussel: We got tons of time before December. That brings us back, or the one question that's in the chat that was left unanswered is the question is there a special setting where we can refer community members with low educational background and needs that, or rather, who need assistance to understand their options on the ballot? And also are there any bilingual resources that are available for them. Outside of the things like this that I know that Southern has done at least one review of the constitutional amendments. I don't know of any other place but opening it to the floor. So if anybody has any information, happy to. I will say that anyone has a question about the amendments.
Alfreda Tillman Bester: The pros and the cons. We can't tell them how to vote, but we can tell them what will happen, a yes or a no. They're welcome to call us at Southern University Law Center's, Vulnerable Communities and People's Initiative. I put the, my number and my email address in the chat earlier. But that number is 2 2 5 7 7 1 5 0 5 1.
Jan Moller: I don't know the answer to the question about bilingual versions of these. I agree that is very sorely needed. And I wish it was something we had the capacity to produce. I will say, we, we try very hard at the budget project, and I know my friends at Par and Cable tried to make. These amendment guides is understandable to the average voter as we possibly can. We may or may not succeed at all times but some of these are complicated and there's just no way around it. I I wish it was always as easy as I wish it was easier to boil down, but sometimes it's just not possible. That's just the way our constitution is structured.