The Louisiana Legislature approved eight proposed constitutional amendments during this year’s 2013 session. To become law, these bills will need to be given final approval by the state’s voters during the next statewide election which is not until November, 2014. Here is a breakdown of the amendments:
House Bill 131: Would prohibit lawmakers from introducing legislation relating to tax rebates, incentives and abatements during legislative sessions held in even-numbered years. Current law already prohibits the introduction of bills relating to new taxes, tax increases, exemptions, exclusions, deductions or credits during even-numbered years. The bill would add these three tax-related issues to the law. There would be no change in state expenditures or revenues.
House Bill 256: Would shorten the redemption period from three years to 18 months for blighted, abandoned, uninhabitable, or hazardous property sold at a tax sale because of an owner’s failure to pay property taxes. Under current law, the redemption period for blighted or abandoned property in Orleans Parish is already 18 months. This bill would bring the statewide redemption period in line with this. Local fund expenditures might decrease as responsible property owners take over these properties more quickly, which means them taking over any maintenance costs usually put on individual cities.
House Bill 426: Would require two of the four at-large members (non-industry representatives) of the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission be from north Louisiana. The seven-member commission, appointed by the governor, currently has three industry representatives and four at-large, or non-industry, members. The bill would require two of the four at-large members to be from the portion of the state north of Beauregard, Allen, Evangeline, Avoylles and Point Coupee parishes. There would be no change in state expenditures or revenues.
House Bill 532 : Would create a state-operated fund into which hospitals could deposit money in order to draw down more federal Medicaid dollars. Would protect the fund constitutionally so provider reimbursement rates could not be cut. The amendment would create the Hospital Stabilization Fund; mechanisms governing the assessment rates for hospitals and reimbursement rates would need to be approved by the Legislature in later years. There will be changes to dedicated funds, but since the formula has not yet been parsed out, a specific cost-benefit cannot yet be determined.
House Bill 533: Would constitutionally protect provider rates for nursing homes, pharmacies and intermediate-care facilities. Nursing homes, pharmacies and intermediate-care facilities already have a stabilization fund like the one that would be established by HB532. This bill would constitutionally protect the reimbursement rates from cuts. Some additional General Fund money would be required for matching purposes; the fund will increase dedicated funds to be disbursed to these three provider groups.
Senate Bill 56: Would exclude homeowners who are permanently and totally disabled from a requirement to annually certify their adjusted gross income to have their property assessment capped. Under current law, some homeowners—such as the elderly, disabled and those in the armed forces—with an adjusted gross income less than $69,463 are eligible for a Special Assessment Level. This prohibits an increase in their property’s total assessment level above the value determined in the first year the assessment level is granted. Those over 65 are already excluded from annually certifying their income. The bill would add the disabled to this exclusion. The cost-benefit is not clear for all parishes. Orleans Parish property tax revenues may drop by around $113,000 in the near term and then increase by around $131,000 in 2017-2018.
Senate Bill 96: Would require disabled veterans who receive homestead exemptions to have been declared “totally disabled or unemployable”. Current law simply says a disabled veteran receiving the exemption must have a “100 percent disability rating by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.” The bill would add the above language to the disability rating. There might be a small reduction in local tax collections as a limited number of additional disabled veterans will be eligible for the exemption.
Senate Bill 128: Would create the Artificial Reef Fund and constitutionally protect money deposited in the fund to be used for siting, designing, constructing, permitting, monitoring and managing an artificial reef. The bill would ensure any money received by the state through grants and donations for the artificial reef would be dedicated to the system and not used for other purposes. There would be no change in state expenditures or revenues.
Should you have any legal questions, please feel free to contact Maria Losavio at Losavio Law Office, LLC located at 1821 MacArthur Drive (near the traffic circle) in Alexandria. We can be reached toll free at (866) 752-9033 or locally at (318) 767-9033. Our initial consultation is free. So call us to know your legal rights.
Disclaimer: The reader of this article should seek legal counsel before using this information. By providing the information in this article, the author is not providing legal advice, but merely information.