Three other proposed constitutional amendments await when early voting begins Saturday, and every Baton Rouge-area community has at least one local racial or ballot issue that needs to be addressed in the Louisiana general election.
Voters on Nov. 8 considered eight proposed amendments to the state constitution and rejected five. The three additional issues tabled by the Legislature for the Dec. 10 election deal with voting rights and whether the state Senate should confirm the governorship of the Louisiana Civil Service Commission and the State Police Commission.
In East Baton Rouge Parish, two judges from the 19th Circuit are in a runoff for a seat on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, and there are runoffs for a seat on the bench of the 19th JDC and for a judgeship in the city of Zachary . The borough school board has four runoffs, including Connie Bernard’s return to a contest from which she previously resigned, and the St. George Fire Department is seeking a new property tax in the southern part of the ward.
Communitywide tax renewals are also on the ballot in Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Livingston, St. Helena, and West Feliciana communities.
Proposed Amendment 1 would require every voter in Louisiana to be a US citizen. The state constitution currently grants voting rights only to Louisiana citizens, but neither the existing document nor the proposed amendment establish what qualifies an individual as a citizen rather than a resident of the state or nation.
The remaining proposals would give the Senate veto power over the appointment of two commissions to oversee the work of certain government officials.
The governor is appointing six members of the Civil Service Commission after receiving recommendations from a number of university presidents. Proposed Amendment 2 would require gubernatorial appointments to be made “with Senate approval.” The seventh member of the panel, elected by government employees, would not be subject to Senate approval.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment 3 works in a similar way for members of the State Police Commission. Its seventh member is elected by secret state constables, and that person does not require Senate approval.
In the East Baton Rouge community, either 19th Circuit Judge Hunter Greene, a Republican, or his colleague Don Johnson, a Democrat, will move to the Circuit Court of Appeals early in the new year after exiting the Nov. 8 primary.
Johnson, who is black, received 43% of the vote in the predominantly white court subdistrict in East Baton Rouge Township. Greene received support from a third of voters. Judge Beau Higginbotham, also a Republican, finished third with a quarter of the vote.
Since voters in Louisiana created subdistricts to increase the number of minority seats on the courts, no black judge has won in a predominantly white subdistrict.
Voter turnout could be decisive for the result. Nearly half of the subdistrict’s registered voters took part on Nov. 8, but only about 20% of voters are expected to take part in the next two weeks.
In District 8 of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, Bernard managed the runoff despite announcing her intention to resign. Because she finished the race late, her name still appeared on the primary ballots. She and Katie Kennison each received 35 percent of the vote and advanced to the December 10 runoff, and Bernard said she would restart her campaign.
Bernard’s campaign finance forms show that she spent $3 during elementary school, and Kennison spent none. Joseph Britt, touted in several flyers sent to voters in the weeks leading up to the election, raised $79,000 and spent $35,000 but finished last in the three-way race and missed the runoff.
In areas served by the St. George Fire Department, voters will consider a new $4 million property tax that would pay about $4 million for operations, including labor costs, in a fast-growing part of the community would bring in. For a home with a market value of $100,000, the property tax would increase by $40 per year.
Among the eight voting items in the Nov. 8 ballot, the only ones approved expanded property tax breaks for certain veterans and the disabled and let water companies waive hefty bills for customers not responsible for utility system problems.