Louisiana voters reject amendment to allow out-of-state members on university boards

Voters in Louisiana rejected Amendment 1 in the state’s general election held on Dec. 5, 76.5% to 23.5%. The amendment would have allowed the governor to appoint at-large members to the boards of supervisors for the public university systems from out-of-state if there are multiple at-large seats and at least one at-large seat is filled by a member residing within the state. The amendment would have applied to the boards of supervisors for the University of Louisiana System, the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, the Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

The amendment was approved unanimously in both chambers of the legislature in October 2020. This amendment on the Dec. 5 ballot was the first post-November statewide measure in Louisiana since at least 1974.

State Sen. Cleo Fields (D), who sponsored the amendment in the legislature, said, “Leaders throughout the country have ties to our public universities. In fact, many alumni have skyrocketed to success in other states but are not permitted to give back in the form of board service. A yes on Amendment 1 welcomes new perspectives, expertise, and connections to Louisiana universities. … A yes on Amendment 1 maintains current boards and will only be used if appropriate at the expiration of an existing at-large member’s term.”

The Louisiana Republican Party argued that the amendment could result in positions on boards going “to rich outsiders who would do political favors to obtain such appointments from governors.” The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR), a nonprofit organization, published arguments for and against the amendment. PAR wrote the following argument in opposition to Amendment 1: “There is no requirement that the out-of-state members be graduates of the institutions they will govern. A broader reform might have moved the details of the composition of these boards out of the Constitution and into statute where they can be adjusted as necessary by the Legislature.”

Louisiana voters decided seven constitutional amendments on Nov. 3, approving five and rejecting two. Louisiana voters decided 189 constitutional amendments from 1995 through 2019. Of those, 121 were on even-year ballots amounting to an average of 10 measures per even-numbered year. Voters approved 75 percent (141 of 189) and rejected 25 percent (48 of 189) of the constitutional amendments since 1995.

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