BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — It is just days until the primary election and early voting is going on now. Voters will have to decide on four constitutional amendments. PAR Louisiana has released its annual guide to understand better what a vote up or down on each amendment would mean.

Amendment One asks voters if they are in favor of banning the use of donations from nonprofits or foreign governments to be used to help run Louisiana elections.

“Probably most famously would be that Mark Zuckerberg donated a lot of money and became sort of known as Zuckerbucks, and a lot of places took the dollars and later regretted it,” said PAR Louisiana President Steven Procopio. “Louisiana thought about taking the money, initially thought it was okay and then decided it was not legal to do so.”

Louisiana determined it was illegal to take the money but lawmakers wanted to have something officially on the books against it.

A vote yes: Ban the use of financial or other donations from a nongovernmental source or a foreign government to administer elections under most circumstances. 

A vote no: Allow election officials to determine whether to accept financial or other donations from outside sources to conduct elections. 

Amendment Two looks to expand the protection for the freedom of worship inside a church. This was born from the COVID lockdowns that prevented people from gathering physically in a church building.

“We already have a freedom of worship both that the U.S. and Louisiana Constitution protect. This is about worshiping in a church,” Procopio said.

A vote yes: Declare the highest level of constitutional protection for the freedom to worship in a church or another place of worship, requiring courts to apply the strictest judicial review to challenges when government bodies restrict access.

A vote no: Maintain current constitutional protections, which provide that the free exercise of religion is a fundamental right subject to the highest level of scrutiny under Louisiana law but do not specifically single out houses of worship. 

Amendment Three wants to make it so that the state must pay 25% of any surplus funds toward state retirement debt at the end of the fiscal year. Louisiana has about $17 billion in state retirement debt. Currently, 10% is dedicated to two retirement debts anticipated to be paid off by 2029.

“This constitutional amendment would say, no, the minimum you have to pay is 25% of the surplus, and it would also go past the 2028-2029 (budget),” Procopio said. “And just whenever there’s a retirement debt, you would have to make these mandatory payments.”

A vote yes: Require lawmakers to use 25% of any state surplus to pay retirement debt for the four state retirement systems. 

A vote no: Leave the current requirement that lawmakers spend 10% of any state surplus to pay retirement debt for two state retirement systems through 2029. 

Amendment Four would allow the state to deny property tax exemptions for a nonprofit or association with property in a severe state of disrepair.

“There were some concerns by some stakeholders that the housing for some of these organizations wasn’t up to standard,” Procopio said. “It seemed unfair to them that there are people who are getting a nonprofit exemption.”

A vote yes: Allow local government officials to remove a property tax exemption from nonprofit organizations that lease housing and have repeated public health or safety violations. 

A vote no: Maintain the current system of property tax exemptions for nonprofit organizations, including those that have repeated public health and safety violations. 

Read details from the PAR Louisiana guide on arguments for and against each of the amendments and read ahead to the additional four amendments that will be on the ballot in November.

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