MARK POPE: Let’s Talk About Election Day [OPINION]
Election Day is this Saturday, Oct. 14 – “let’s talk”
Please go vote this Saturday, Oct. 14. Remember that a change occurred a couple of years ago with the Saturday hours at all state voting precinct locations. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. during Saturday voting. Only during federal elections in Louisiana, which are always held on a Tuesday, are polls open at 6 a.m. It really is a crying shame when voter turnout is a paltry 15% to 20% or less. Voting is a privilege in our representative republic, and it is also a civic duty for all citizens living in our great country.
There are several issues on the ballot in Acadiana. First, there is the state-wide race for State Treasurer. The position was vacated by John Neely Kennedy, who became Louisiana’s junior senator in the U.S. Senate in January of 2017. Kennedy’s shoes will be hard to fill, but there are some capable candidates. There are six candidates for State Treasurer, and a run-off on Sat., Nov. 18 is virtually guaranteed. I’ve made my decision, but I will not endorse nor recommend any candidate.
Second, there is a race to race to fill a seat on the Public Service Commission, which was vacated when incumbent Scott Angelle accepted a position with the U.S. Department of Energy in the Trump Administration. Angelle currently oversees safety and environmental regulations for domestic energy producers. Acadiana voters will decide among three candidates to fill the commissioner seat vacated by Angelle. The district is huge, running from south Louisiana, and meandering up into north Louisiana. Once again, I’ll offer no endorsement nor recommendation for the field of three candidates.
Third, Louisiana voters will vote yes or no on three state constitutional amendments. Here we can talk, and I will offer some comments because these are “issues,” not candidates, for which we will be voting. I will be voting yes on Amendments No. 1, and No. 2. Amendment No. 1 keeps taxes from being applied to building materials on structures which are under construction. “Structures” pertain to commercial buildings as well as home construction. We are taxed enough already, don’t you think?
Amendment No. 2 allows a full homestead exemption for the unmarried, widowed spouses of first-responders who lost their lives while performing their jobs. This exemption adds to a recent homestead exemption that voters approved last year for widowed spouses of military personnel and first-responders who are killed while performing their duties. First-responders in this latest constitutional amendment includes volunteer firefighters, emergency-medical-technicians, and paramedics, as well as law enforcement and fire protection officers. This is a good amendment and should assist those families who lose a father or mother who was serving a vital function in our society.
Amendment No. 3 establishes a fund to be used exclusively for the construction of “transportation infrastructure” using any new tax money derived from the state gasoline excise tax you and I pay at the gas pump. I have reservations . . . but I’m voting yes. This amendment is the legislature’s attempt to earn the trust of the state’s citizens in the use of transportation funds coming from an increase in the current gas tax, which is 20₵ per gallon. If the amendment is approved, no money coming from any new gas tax revenue will be used for DOTD salaries or employee benefits; funding will go only to “transportation projects.” Currently, gas tax revenue goes to fund road construction, but it also goes to fund railroads, deep-water ports, and even airports. That formula needs serious adjustment. When the state gas tax was established in 1990, and up until 2015, $750 million of gas tax revenue went to state police. In 2015, the legislature statutorily limited gas tax money going to state police to $10 million annually. In 2016, the legislature gave state police no gas tax money. This amendment will establish a fund which will have a zero balance until the per-gallon gas tax is increased. That’s if and when the tax is increased. Nonetheless, it’s an effort to improve the untrustworthy “Transportation Trust Fund.”
So go vote on Saturday, and wear your “George Rodrigue” I VOTED sticker proudly when you join your Cajun brothers and sisters at Festival Acadiens this weekend.