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Voters encouraged to read up on constitutional amendments before making decision

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

Voters in Louisiana are not only picking a new president, a U.S. senator and six congressmen but will also be asked to decide the fate of six constitutional amendments in the November 8 election. 

"It’s a big collection of constitutional amendments," said political analyst Clay Young. "Not one of them on the list is minor."

Young said while some of the wording in the amendments can make them hard to understand, it is important for people to read through them and do their homework before heading to the polls. 

"Take the time. It doesn't take very long," Young added. "There are several sources that will break down and put the amendments in layman's terms so you can understand them. I encourage people to do it now so you're a part of this process in a smart way." 

The first amendment would create new job requirements for registrars in local parishes.

A 'yes' vote would require local registrars to have a bachelor’s degree plus two years of work experience, an associate’s degree and four years of experience, or five years of professional office work to qualify for the job. Also, any open registrar positions would have to be publicized.

The second amendment would give control of tuition to college boards.

If passed, the boards that oversee Louisiana colleges and universities statewide would be able to raise tuition and fees without having to get approval from the legislature, who currently sets tuition rates.

Under the amendment, degrees could be more expensive and colleges could shift the prices of different types of degrees more easily. Young said the change could shake up the cost of education. 

"If they make changes to tuitions or fees at certain universities, it's going to impact what future college students are going to be facing and their parents will be facing in the future," he added.

The third amendment addresses corporate taxes.

If passed, corporations will no longer be able to deduct their federal income taxes from their state income tax bill. Instead, they would pay a flat state tax of 6.5 percent. The state’s corporate tax collections would also no longer be linked, which means if federal corporate taxes went up, Louisiana tax collections would not be affected. 

The fourth amendment, if passed, would provide tax benefits for spouses of slain military and law enforcement officers. 

The measure would waive most property taxes on homes for spouses of service members, police or firefighters who die while on active duty. This benefit would begin next year and would not apply retroactively to cover people in this situation already. 

The benefit would also be taken away if the spouse ever remarried. 

Both the fifth and sixth amendments on the ballot focus on Louisiana’s finances.

The fifth amendment would set up another state budge trust fund where a share of the incoming tax revenue from the oil and gas industry would be set aside to cover pension and retirement costs. 

The amendment also allows money to be taken out of the fund for emergency situations as declared by the legislature. 

The sixth amendment would make it easier for legislators to access funds during tough budget times. 

This amendment would set new guidelines for legislators when taking money from some state accounts during a financial crisis, making it easier in some cases and harder in others 

Those in support of the measure say it would allow budget cuts to be made more evenly rather than falling so much on healthcare and high education, but those against the amendment say it could be another way for legislators to avoid though decisions when it comes to the budget. 

"I think Louisiana really has to look at the way we're going to deal with financial hardships in the future and this is just one example of how we may be able to do that," Young said. 

No matter how voters fall on either of the issues, Young said the best thing for them to do is to get a good understanding of what a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote will do and make sure they come to a decision before they head to the polls. 

"When it comes to constitutional amendments, if you're deciding on the way you're going to vote in the booth, you're not doing yourself any favors," Young said. 

One way voters can keep track of which way they decide on each amendment is by downloading the Geaux Vote app where they can mark their choices on a sample ballot and take it with them into the voting booth as they vote. 

The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR) also has a guide to the constitutional amendments that are up for a vote

Copyright 2016 WAFB. All rights reserved.

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