Louisiana Ballot Has Questions on Abortion, Sports Betting

Election 2018 Louisiana
Elliot Scharfenberg walks with his dog as he leaves his polling place after voting in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Beyond the presidential and congressional races, Louisiana voters are sifting through questions in the fall election about abortion rights, sports betting and tax policy.

Seven statewide constitutional changes and a parish-by-parish proposition on sports wagering are on the Nov. 3 ballot, with early voting already underway.

Top of that list, voters will decide whether to enshrine anti-abortion language in the Louisiana Constitution, under a proposal overwhelmingly backed by lawmakers in 2019 that is generating fierce social media campaigns, rallies and in-person events for and against the amendment.

Amendment 1, if passed, would rewrite the state governing document to ensure it does not offer protections for abortion rights. A handful of other conservative states have enacted similar constitutional provisions. They would come into play if the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide is overturned.

Abortion opponents want to ensure if states can determine the legality of the procedure, a federal court could not rule Louisiana’s constitution confers rights that keep lawmakers from limiting or banning abortion. Legislators passed a law years ago prohibiting abortion in Louisiana if Roe v. Wade is thrown out.

“We are seeing a disturbing trend in other states where the state Supreme Courts are finding a ‘right to abortion’ in their state constitutions, thus taking the issue out of the hands of the people and placing it into the judiciary,” Angie Thomas, association director of Louisiana Right to Life Associate, said in a statement.

Abortion rights supporters say the constitutional change would lay the groundwork for outlawing abortions entirely in Louisiana.

“Once again, reproductive rights are under attack in Louisiana, and this dangerous amendment must be defeated,” Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast said in a statement promoting a virtual town hall in opposition to the amendment.

At the end of the list, voters are seeing a question asking whether they want to legalize sports betting in their parishes.

The wagering only will be legal in parishes where a majority of those casting ballots agree. But even in those parishes, people interested in betting will have to wait a year or more to do so. Additional legislation to create the licensing, regulation and tax structures will be required.

Two years ago, residents of 47 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes agreed to legalize fantasy sports competitions for online cash prizes, suggesting a similar number of parishes likely could support authorizing sports wagering.

Six other amendments are facing voters:

—Amendment 2 would change the way oil and gas wells are assessed for property taxes, allowing a well’s production to be included in determining the fair market value.

—Amendment 3 would allow lawmakers to use the state’s “rainy day” fund to offset costs tied to federally declared disasters, like a hurricane.

—Amendment 4 would recalculate Louisiana’s cap on annual growth in government to make it harder for lawmakers to increase spending beyond certain limits. The change would take effect in mid-2022.

—Amendment 5 would let manufacturers and local government agencies negotiate payment arrangements for new projects. Those financial deals would replace property taxes the companies could otherwise owe for the industrial expansions.

—Amendment 6 would allow higher-income homeowners to qualify for a special freeze in their property tax assessments.

—Amendment 7 would lock up Louisiana’s unclaimed property dollars, which are owed to residents, in a trust fund that could not be used to pay for state operating expenses.

The nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana has released its yearly online guide to the proposals.


By AP reporter Melinda Deslatte

Categories: Politics, Today’s Business News